Archive for August 2019

Open Book Blog Hop – 26th August   Leave a comment

Stevie Turner

This week’s topic is:

Why would you, as an author/reader, abandon (stop reading) someone else’s book?

Yes, I have abandoned books in the past.  I have an ‘Abandoned‘ shelf on Goodreads, but some authors objected to me adding their books and asked me to remove them.  The 5 books I have on there at the moment I tried to read so long ago that I’ve forgotten why I stopped reading them.  However, I can tell you what the probable reasons were, which I’ll list below (in no particular order).

  1. Poor spelling / grammar:  This tells me the author hasn’t made much effort to produce a reasonable story.
  2. A book that’s written in too young a style:  This is fine for children, but not for me.
  3. Boring:  Sorry, but if I start skipping over pages because it’s going nowhere, then I’ll probably end up abandoning it.
  4. It’s in a…

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Posted August 26, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

How Not to Lose a Reader   10 comments

Why would you, as an author/reader, abandon (stop reading) someone else’s book?

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5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

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Confessions of a Book Glutton

I was practically born with a book in my hand and my parents weren’t very sympathetic to complaints about “boring” books — unless they were math books. They even made me read deadly dull history books that were clearly written to induce coma.

Consequently, there’s not much that has made me stop reading a book by another author. That makes me a good beta reader. (I’m looking for volunteers on my latest book, by the way, email lelamarkham@gmail.com if you want to swap).

Mental Adultery Avoided

There have been books I haven’t finished. Fifty Shades of Grey is one. I got about 50 pages in and returned it to the coworker who had challenged me to read it. Why? I felt like I was mentally cheating on my husband and the BDSM didn’t look at all loving to me. And, then the writing SUCKED and it wasn’t a beta swap so I couldn’t correct it, but felt like I should. Bus man’s holiday, much?

Bad Writing & Implausible Plots

The Twilight series was also a bust, mainly because the writing SUCKED. (Seriously, the movies were better and that happens so rarely it’s a miracle event). I was reading the first book with my then-teenage daughter and one evening we met in the hallway between our rooms and she actually asked me what I thought. I didn’t want to be Nazi Mom – she was 15 1/2 and at some point they have to decide their own standards — so, I reversed the question. She said “I can’t get over the fact that she loves this guy and she can’t see that she is food to him. Yeah, he’s enjoying playing with his prey before he kills her and maybe he’d like to mate with her before he kills her, but she’s still his food.” Yeah, that was pretty much what I thought too and I was proud of myself for raising a smart kid. I stopped reading at that point. She read a couple more of the books (the whole series was loaned to her by a friend who thought they were great books), but she finally returned the series unfinished. We did have a few shared laughs reading a blog that mocked the series. It was really the first sense I had of the power of blogging. Up to that point, I thought they were fluff online diaries by people who were more than slightly narcissistic, but that helped me to see that some serious analysis could go on in this new medium of discourse.

The Left Behind series also has gone unfinished. I always found the writing technically good and a little manipulative and shallow, but I could put that aside until my willing suspension of disbelief couldn’t go any further when a nuclear bomb landed on the heroes and they lived. It’s not that I don’t believe God could deliver such a miracle. I absolutely believe that God can do whatever God wants to do so long as it doesn’t violate His character, but I just didn’t feel pleased that the characters survived and I kind of felt like their survival violated God’s character. I looked at the next book in the series on the bookstore shelf and I just couldn’t plunk down the money for it. And then the longtime collaborator left and I really lost all interest.

Get out of the Cul de Sac

I almost stopped reading The Wheel of Time series. The last book Robert Jordan wrote just felt like he’d written himself into a corner and he was milling about trying to find his way out (I didn’t know he had cancer, which might have been what was going on). I swore to myself that I wouldn’t buy the next book. I just couldn’t face another description of Aes Sedai clothing and Rand beating himself up AGAIN for his failures. And then I heard that Jordan died and I was actually a little sad that there would be no ending, while consoling myself with the sense that there didn’t seem to be an ending anyway. And, then Brandon Sanderson took over and I decided to give him a chance (I’d not read books by him before). He is now one of my favorite authors and my poor husband will have to put up with me binge-watching the Wheel of Time television series if it ever makes it to streaming.

Can I Improve It?

So, what would cause me to stop reading another author’s book? Well, if it’s a beta swap, I’ll probably go the whole nine. If it’s boring, manipulative or poorly written, you’ll know that from reading my comments. I don’t hate you. I want to make you a better writer. You’ll notice that I praise some things. Do THAT and change what I was negative about to something like THAT, and you’ll be a better writer when you’re done. I hope you will give me the same courtesy. Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings. I’m asking for critique. Give me what I asked for.

It’s a Business! Show Me the Quality!

If it’s a traditionally published writer – I have a low tolerance for bad writing when I’m paying to read your book. Seriously – books are pretty danged expensive these days (mainly because I still love to curl up with the physical copy of them and I read a lot of fantasy which tend to be fat books). The least you can do is give me a high-quality product. I now sample the beginning, the middle and something toward the end of the paperback I’m thinking of buying before I purchase it. Thank you, Barnes & Noble, for the great comfy chairs by the fire pit so I can be comfortable while deciding if a book is worth an hour of take-home pay.

Watch for this by year’s end

I’ll stick through a little boredom from writers, if it’s in a good cause — like world-building. I’ll stick through an occasional eddy where the writer creatively works out a narrative cul de sac (after all, sometimes characters have to return to their own vomit a few times before they fight their way out of whatever’s got them trapped). I’ll skim over the occasional sex scene (that’s how I got through the otherwise excellent Song of Ice and Fire). I’ll even put up with the occasional description of fancy dress. So long as these negatives exist inside a compelling story – I’m okay with that UNLESS there’s too much of it, in which case, yeah, I’ll stop reading it at some point.

Hey, Historians, Employ a Ghost!

And, by the way, I still read deathly dull history books, but here’s some advice to the historians who write books – thank you for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us, but seriously, if you can’t write, hire someone who can. What is killing the study of history is not that IT is boring, but that your writing about it is BORING. A good writer would make all the difference. There’s reasons David McCollough and Amity Schael sell books in the millions to ordinary people instead of a few hundred to academics and history-buff novelists. It’s because their writing is entertaining and avoids the passive voice. While some of us are committed enough to history to study it even when it is written in passive voice and drags on and on without any compelling story lines, ordinary people won’t. And, that’s a shame because those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted August 26, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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I’ll Never Know the Cost   Leave a comment

Snippets of Wisdom   Leave a comment

This thought didn’t come from me, but from a college-aged young man we know. He suggested the presidential candidates for 2020 need a “Bastiat for Beginners” course.

It started out with him asking me to remind him of my slogan for 2016 —

Crooks on my left, clowns on my right.

I’m not voting for either of you.

Toby explained he was really too young and immature to understand what I meant when I said that three years ago, but when he argued with me, I suggested he go read some intelligent discourse and come back to me before the next presidential election.

Image result for bastiat parasitic and voracious intermediary meme

He remembers being angry that I didn’t listen to him. After all, I haven’t been in a classroom for over a decade and times change and what do I know anyway? Of course, I didn’t stop learning, not when I graduated high school, not when I got my BA, and not when I got my Masters. I just gave myself permission to study books I’d never had time to study before — books that teachers find subversive because they suggest government employers are not all that good for society. Let us remember who most teachers work for.

I thought the conversation was over because I certainly don’t feel like I have more than an hour to waste on a stubborn 17-year-old, but my son (also 17 at the time) emailed Toby a pdf of Frederic Bastiat’s That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen and Toby took it from there.

Now, at 20, he thinks Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump and the other myriad candidates should be forced to sit down and study Frederic Bastiat’s writings before they continue forward in this race. He also suggested Lysander Spooner, Randolph Bourne, Milton Friedman and John Locke, but I doubt they’re ready for the full monty treatment. For the record, Toby found those authors all on his own because Kiernan opened a door of reason for him. The kid plans to tackle Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty this winter. Toby’s a Political Science major so he could actually do something with this besides just chatter on the Internet.

I don’t think we’re going to get the 30-odd people who are running for US President for 2020 to get together in a classroom and study Bastiat and even if they did – well, yeah, they would refuse to absorb most of it (Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are all about on the same intellectual level and not amenable to learning). They already know everything they need to know to force me to live the life they believe I should live and want to live because they know better than me what my life should look like. Most of them don’t want to reason out what is good for society. They’re all about the feelings and virtue signalling. They don’t really care if their programs enslave people.

But hey, that doesn’t mean I can share some of the wisdom of Bastiat with willing readers. As you read the snippets, think about how that applies to 2020 and the US Presidency. I think if you do it right, you’ll never quite see the nanny state in the same way you did before.

Snippets of Wisdom

  1. “The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”
  2. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference: the one takes account only of the visible effect; the other takes account of both the effects which are seen and those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.”
  3. “[The socialists declare] that the State owes subsistence, well-being, and education to all its citizens; that it should be generous, charitable, involved in everything, devoted to everybody; …that it should intervene directly to relieve all suffering, satisfy and anticipate all wants, furnish capital to all enterprises, enlightenment to all minds, balm for all wounds, asylums for all the unfortunate… Who would not like to see all these benefits flow forth upon the world from the law, as from an inexhaustible source? … But is it possible? … Whence does [the State] draw those resources that it is urged to dispense by way of benefits to individuals? Is it not from the individuals themselves? How, then, can these resources be increased by passing through the hands of a parasitic and voracious intermediary?”
  4. “It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.”
  5. “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
  6. “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
  7. “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
  8. “It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person…The existence of persons and property preceded the existence of the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee their safety.”
  9. “Leave people alone. God has given organs to this frail creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, use, experience, and liberty.”
  10. “Misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.”
  11. “The real cost of the State is the prosperity we do not see, the jobs that don’t exist, the technologies to which we do not have access, the businesses that do not come into existence, and the bright future that is stolen from us. The State has looted us just as surely as a robber who enters our home at night and steals all that we love.”
  12. “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.”
  13. “You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”
  14. “The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. Its purpose is to protect persons and property…. If you exceed this proper limit—If you attempt to make the law religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial, or artistic—you will then be lost in uncharted territory, in vagueness and uncertainty, in a forced utopia or, even worse, in a multitude of utopias, each striving to seize the law and impose it on you.”

Just read each one at a time and pause and think about the implications in our present society and the election of 2020.

Cover Reveal   Leave a comment

Consequences of Simplistic “Solutions”   2 comments

Reading with an open mind.

I’ve been rereading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and am amazed at what I’m finding there. When I was in high school and then in college, it was required reading in some classes and I admit it, I read it for the environmentalist message that I was expected to regurgitate in class and kind of ignored whatever didn’t fit that narrative, but on this “for my own information” reading, I’m seeing things with a different view, perhaps because I’m free to think rather than do what I’m told.

As a libertarian, I know there are multiple ways of dealing with the missteps we humans make. One strategy deals in cultural transformation. This could be applied to multiple topics, but let’s just look at environmental issues. Concerned citizens work toward environmental improvement by developing social awareness and making voluntary adjustments. The EPA admits that this decentralized approach of neighbor talking to neighbor, of scientists proposing corrections, of commentators writing critiques and of consumers and businesses altering their behavior over time improved the environment of the United States immensely in the 1960s BEFORE the National Environmental Policy Act was passed.

The alternative is political action – NEPA and its rabid offspring, including the Green New Deal, which looks to centralize the power to deal with a situation under a government “problem-solving” agency(ies). Most of today’s activists embrace the “all problems should be and can be solved by government” approach.

So, it surprised me to find that Carson blamed federal, state, and local governments for the wave of mindless environmental abuse she witnessed.

Go read the book before you argue. On page after page, Carson reviewed these damaging actions and time and again, there was government involvement – either directing the program itself or reinforcing a private program and refusing to listen to biologists or members of the general public who objected.

At one time, the federal government had a major effort toward sagebrush eradication, which of course affected grouse, deer, moose and beaver. This “appalling example of ecological destruction,” according to Carson, was carried out by the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. I find that ironic since the Forest Service now tries to blame ranchers for sagebrush destruction while not acknowledging its own history – a history I couldn’t find on the internet, but a cousin who is a North Dakota feed store owner confirmed for me.

Carson criticized local governments for the practice of spraying roadsides to kill weeds, even damaging specially designated nature areas. She specifically mentioned Connecticut’s Arboretum Nature Area. This practice, by the way, continues today, mandated by the US Department of Transportation for safety reasons. The chemicals are less damaging — we think.

In the 1950s, the US Department of Agriculture and state departments of agriculture carried out the aerial dusting of Aldrin to control a Japanese beetle infestation in the Midwestern states. When people began to complain about the toxicity, government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Agency and the Detroit Department of Parks, assured the public that “the dust was harmless.”

Carson is famous for her opposition to DTD, but she placed the silence of spring firmly on government shoulders. Federal government spraying against the fire ant caused massive bird die-off, according to Carson. Many city governments, on recommendations of the Department of Agriculture, sprayed DOT and heptachlor trying to control Dutch elm disease. Turned out proper pruning was what was necessary.

Carson had great disgust for Nassau Country (Long Island, New York), the US Department of Agriculture and the US State Department for conducting aerial spraying against the gypsy moth “showering insecticide over children at play and commuters at railway stations,” killing hives of honeybees and even a horse poisoned by its drinking water.

Carson does mention other actors as bearing some blame for this destruction of nature – consumers, sportsmen, farmers and manufacturers of pesticides were part of the problem in her view, but she overwhelmingly cites government as the principle offender. At least 90 times, she cited some level of government involvement, either carrying out the programs or reinforcing an environmental abuse.

Carson showed no sign of a libertarian bent. She didn’t see government as an inherently evil agent. She simply reported government’s dysfunctional actions from a naturalist’s point of view. If modern environmental activists want to avoid repeating history, they need to analyze what went wrong, rather than just resting on their presuppositions.

A spirit of crisis causes us to make policy decisions without thought for the long-term consequences.

Carson saw the government’s approach as simplistic overreaction. People respond to a “spirit of crisis” she said in describing the Japanese beetle infestation. The feeling of urgency favors a single-minded approach that ignores side effects and long-term arms. The dominate philosophy was “nothing must get in the way of the man with the spray gun. The incidental victims of his crusade against insects count as nothing.”

Once government had been captured by this philosophy, bureaucrats lined up behind the policy with thoughtless obedience. They didn’t question, they wouldn’t even listen to alternative voices. Carson expressed deep frustration at their closed-minded mentality.

Interestingly, Carson admitted that the pesticides had their uses. She wanted a moderation, not a cessation. She wanted us to think deeply and thoughtfully about their side effects and long-run impacts and to modify as needed – as sensible. That’s an important message for today. The 21st century environmental activities need to realize the world is a complicated place and policy interventions have many unexpected consequences.

We live in a world where screaming “catastrophe” and calling on the government to implement simplistic, sweeping measures can cause vast harm.

And it’s important to recognize that this rush to “DO SOMETHING”, demanding that government ram simplistic solutions through without looking at unintended consequences exists in a whole host of topics today. Is it caused environmental degradation? Could be, given the history. What we know is that it is causing economic and societal degradation and that the natural rights of individuals are endangered by the constant insistence that collectivization is “for our own good.”

Why do we assume that problems largely caused by government intervention will somehow magically be repaired by pouring more government intervention on the problem it caused?

Reader Connections–A Measure of Success   Leave a comment

Lyndell Williams

OPEN BOOK (9)#OpenBook

What does literary success look like to you?

I find it interesting that this week’s question uses the word “look” when it comes to literary success because I have a visual representation of it for me.

Let me give a little backstory. I love Zumba. It is one of the ways I get to release pent up tension and clear my head. I’m usually all over the floor during class, wiggling my hips and shouting as I cheerlead people to go higher and have fun.

 Anyway, last week, one of my zeeps (Zumba+peeps) had mentioned that she wanted to read My Way to You, my first book in the Brothers in Law series.  Like most indie authors, I had a copy. You gotta know how to play the game.

I signed and handed it to her. This week, she tapped me on the shoulder between songs, saying…

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Posted August 20, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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