So-Called Book Review

The Color of Heaven
by Julianne MacLean (E.V. Mitchell)
Smashwords Edition

More than a year ago, I said I would be writing reviews of books published by Smashwords, as it is among the most up and coming E-book publishers. Since then, the books this company publishes have gone through many changes. Part of that is due to the fact that Smashwords publishes the E-book versions of books that have already been published by some of the mainstream publishers. These have been well edited, and the writing is generally excellent. So, the reader gets the same quality read that he would have if he had bought the paper or hardbound edition.

Second, Smashwords, along with a few other E-book publishers have opened the playing field to a host of new writers who would never have been considered by any of the major publishers. Over the last few years, many of these writers have learned that if they want to attract a reading public, they need to write, edit and re-edit, so that their product is as close to professional quality as they can reasonably make it be.

Those impossible to read novels that were so badly written that they made the vanity presses a laughing stock are still out there, and they do turn up in E-books. Books like that will be with us as long as there are people who own publishing companies that will publish anything at all, regardless of the quality of the writing.

Now, what does this writer think of The Color of Heaven? If this were a first novel, she would say that Julianne MacLean should keep on writing, as surely her work will mellow and improve over time.

However, Julianne MacLean has written for and been published by Harlequin as well as St. Martins Press. This book is available for free as an E-book for the Kindle, through Amazon, and for the Nook, through Barnes and Nobel. As of this writing, there is no paper-bound edition available. Perhaps, as it is a freebie, it is not her best work. That is very sad, as it leaves this reader wondering about the quality of her other work.

On the other hand, the problem may be that this writer should not review Romance Novels. After all, the subject matter often lacks a certain sophistication. Boy meets girl, or man meets woman. The sparks fly, and then there is the inevitable love scene, which may extend for pages. There may be several of those scenes. This may in part be due to the authors of said books being uncertain of what the protagonists will do next, so they put their characters to bed. Unfortunately, if you have read one love scene, you have read them all. Yes, body parts do fit together, and it often does feel very nice. In these books, once the protagonists have made love the prescribed number of times, they go on to live happily ever after, together. The Color of Heaven is unabashedly a Romance Novel. So unabashedly so, that this writer is inclined to call it sappy.

On another note, have you ever noticed that the protagonists in those books nearly always have green eyes? Doesn’t that color tend to indicate jealousy, or insanity, or other such unpleasant things? One would think, from reading these novels, that the entire world was made up of green-eyed people.

In this novel, Sophie’s life has more than its shares of downs and ups. She marries a man with money and a good career, and she is able to develop a career of her own that she loves. She also has a quantity of money to live on that most people can only dream of having. It has often been said that money won’t buy love, or happiness. Still, we must add that it is nearly impossible to get either without first having some money. She loses a child to cancer. We have all lost friends and loved ones to cancer, and watching someone who you care about die the painful death of cancer and its treatments is harrowing. No one should ever have to endure this.

Sophie spends more than a year working through her grief. During that time she loses her husband to divorce. These are the sorts of things that would leave anyone flat on the floor. Nevertheless, they are setbacks that many of us have had to deal with. According to statistics, 50 percent of marriages now end in divorce, and according to another set of statistics, nearly 50 percent of all people in this country may come down with cancer. How we deal with our grief is individual. There is no one right or wrong way to come to terms with such losses.

For the one who has little money, the choices are either to collapse for several weeks, or months, and risk becoming homeless, or continue working, whether or not she is physically and emotionally capable of carrying that burden.

This reader found it difficult to stomach a main character who spends most of the novel collapsed in her misery, when she does have options that a lot of us do not. In the end, what you think of Sophie and the choices she makes, is purely individual.

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Would I Advise You to Use WordPress Blogs?

A number of people have come across my blog and asked whether it is a WordPress blog. The answer is yes. It is easy to use, and it is versatile. I am in my sixties, and not computer brilliant. My son and I designed my website so that I would be able to add onto it in any way that I wanted to. That meant I had to learn at least a little programming, but that it had to be simple, so that building up on it would be logical and easy.

I wanted a blog that I could integrate into my website. At the time I was looking, WordPress was among the most highly rated blog platforms. GoDaddy uploaded it into my website programming, and I found that naming it and creating the links that would connect to it on every page was self explanatory.

There are some excellent tutorials online about how to use WordPress, and even earning a little money with it. has a gathered a goodly (Who uses the word goodly in the 21st Century? This puts me among the ancients!) amount of information into a format that is easy to understand and follow.

Let’s face it. Most of the blogs are easy to use. I created a blog to be an intrinsic part of my website. This website is, first of all, a writer’s website, so I wanted my blog to be about the art and the act of writing. More than that, I wanted it to be a place where I could write about anything that arouses my interests. Because, in order to be effective, writing must express your passions. Many, many things may arouse a writer’s passions.

One thing about blogs, which any writer will appreciate, is that they are works-in-progress. They are never complete. This is especially true if you want to attract a readership that will keep coming back to read what you have to say. You need to put something new on it at least once a week, if not more often. What makes it especially wonderful is that your blog is

Me, sounding off

Genevieve will talk about anything

a space where you can write about those things that mean the most to you.

Keep on writing, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

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And So It Goes

I would have been writing this blog much more steadily, but I had to move and rethink just what I was doing with my life. Such are the joys of the writing life. Because we must pick our brains, every single day, in order to ensure that we make our quota of written and edited material, we tend to use everything we see our friends go through as grist for the mill. We tend to be more philosophical than the general run of the population — at least where other people’s problems are concerned. After all, every story, including the story we are in the midst of writing, can be told from several different points of view — each of them very different. For instance, the little boy who did not get the toy he wanted for his birthday, would tell an entirely different story from the one his mother would tell, about looking at the electronic game displays at the local toy store, and seeing how expensive those toys were, and not wanting her son to spend any more countless hours in front of the video monitor, clicking the mouse. So, she got him a bicycle instead.

But, to her son, that bicycle was old-hat. All of his friends are glued to their computerized game devices, and most of them have forgotten how to deal with the world face-to-face, as it were. The notion of spending time outdoors is almost as appealing to those boys as having teeth pulled. And so it goes.

As I expected, the e-books, published by Smashwords are a mixed bag. There are, of course, plenty of professionally edited books, written by authors who have a wonderful ability to tell a good story. And then, there are books that were written by wonderfully creative people, who never took the final step of having their work edited by someone who knew what he was doing. Their telling is well thought through. Their scenes are, for the most part, well described. Their word usage usually works, more frequently than I would care to count, there are words that do not quite mean what the author intended when he used them. Sometimes, this is jarring, and I wonder whether my sense of how the language is supposed to be used belongs only to my generation, and as we die off, it will not matter to those who come after, because they will not know the difference. But this is a petty complaint.

Of course, even among the less-experienced authors, you can find some real gems. These are the writers who care about using the language well, and who love putting words together, not only for the sake of moving their story forward, but for the sake of the sound and texture of the language. They are careful about choosing just the right words, to express the ideas they want their readers to carry away with them. You know these writers when you find them, because as soon as you have read the first few paragraphs — whether or not the subject matter excites you — you know that you are in the hands of a master story-teller. These are the writers whose books I look forward to reading — all night long, until the songs of the birds calling in the dawn reminds me that I had better get some sleep, or I will not be able to function. These are the books I want to celebrate in this blog, as they deserve to be widely known.

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More on Publishing

I have been looking at many of the independent publishers lining up. Some of them look better than others. I am most interested in those publishers who earn their money by selling books to the public, instead of charging the writers, even a nominal fee.

There are plenty of publishers like Trafford and X-Libris that charge their writers thousands of dollars up front, and have a reputation for publishing everything from anyone who would pay their fee, without regard for the quality of the manuscripts. They make their money by charging the writers. And for years, they don’t care two cents whether anyone buys the books they publish. I have seen some of the work that places like Dorrance publishes, as authors have sent me their books to be edited, after they had been published. They were upset that they could not sell any of those expensive books.

Then there are the multitude of independent publishers who are attempting to compete, on whatever level they can, with the Big 4 Corporate publishers in this country.

In one way, it is wonderful to see so many people attempting to start a business that might actually work out, as apposed to sitting and never doing anything about their dreams. As a writer however, you must be prepared to thoroughly research the market of publishers. You need to look to see which publishers have been around for more than a few months, and which ones put any sort of attention towards editing the books that go through their presses. You will want to know which publishers design appropriate and eye-catching covers for the books they publish, and which publishers know how to market those books. Once you have written the perfect manuscript, and had it edited by someone who knows what he or she is doing, there is still no guarantee that anyone will buy your book.

Marketing, marketing, marketing; this should be the topic of the first conversation you have when you talk with an agent from any of the publishers. How do they get their books out to the reading public.

As I have said in other posts, I have been following Smashwords with interest for the past couple of years. I read their advertising and the various permutations of their website, as I am considering publishing a book of mine through them.

I was disappointed to see that Smashwords does not edit the books they publish. Where they are insistent is that the formatting and coding for the e-pub files they produce for e-readers are excellent, and, they want to see a well-designed cover for each book.

Mark Coker is not making his money from charging the authors. He makes it by the small commission each book Smashwords sells. Laudably, the bulk of the money on each sale goes to the author who has written the book.

Most writers would love to be published by almost any of the major publishers. The sad truth is, the major publishers do not want to invest in unknown writers. They no longer have editors who do in-depth editing on manuscripts by unknown writers, and they no longer put any real advertising dollars behind a new writer. Because of these things, they are not about to pay that writer more than a $2000.00 advance. Very few books from such writers actually earn back the advance, so the writer is very unlikely to see any royalties from his book. That is why going through a small publisher looks very, very interesting to a lot of writers.

I needed to know, what is Smashwords publishing? I bought myself a Nook e-reader to find out. There is a gratifying number of free e-books on Barnes and Nobel, most of them published by Smashwords. Yes, there is a lot of junk in the mix, and then there are some real gems. These are thoughtfully written and edited books, with good story-lines and well-developed characters. They are books that are truly a pleasure to read. I will be reviewing some of those books on this blog. Please, stay tuned for more.

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Interactive Editing

Writing could be compared with an interactive game. You begin by establishing what you want to say and who your intended audience is. Then, you make a bet with yourself that you really can really write something that will make your audience excited and want to read more. You are gambling with yourself to see how well you will be able to reach your intended audience.

The next step is to sit down, either in front of your computer, or with pen and paper, and begin to record your ideas. This is your rough draft. Once your ideas are down on paper, you can begin to jimmy them around, noting what you want to say about each of your ideas, and then arranging them so that each idea carries your readers to the next one.

At this point, your work has only begun. The original concept might or might not be what you expected. Perhaps, you need to explain some things further. Perhaps, instead of being exciting, your descriptions plod along on feet of cement. So, try various ways to make what you have to say as interesting as possible.

Would a generous sprinkling of exclamation points make your story more exciting to read? The sad truth is that they will not. What makes a piece exciting to read is what you say and how you say it. In fact, it isn’t what you do, so much as it is how you do it that counts, not only in life, but in writing. It isn’t so much what you are writing about, it is how you describe your ideas — do you add some of your precious and unique point of view to the piece? What about your choice of words? The more you read, the more you will see that each writer is unique in terms of the way he or she describes things.

You will find that editing is an art. This is where you look at each and every word, judging to see how many times you have used the same word in a sentence, or paragraph, and looking to see whether a synonym might work better. You do not want to be repetitious, or your readers will lose interest. You also want to make sure the sentences are in the right order and that the paragraphs follow each other in a logical fashion.

Only after you have established what you want to say, and how you want to say it, do you go over your piece for grammar, typos and spelling errors. Generally, you will have cleaned up most of those while working out what you want to say. After three or four edits, your piece should be ready to show someone whom you trust to give it a critical reading. This is where the real interactive part comes in. You are free to take this person’s suggestions with a grain of salt; after all, you know what you wanted to say, and why you said what you did. However, do pay attention if your reader does not understand what you mean in your article. The questions he asks are a good indication that other people will have trouble understanding what you say as well. It means you need to think about ways to express your ideas clearly, while putting all the necessary bits into your descriptions, so that what you say makes sense to your readers. Then you post your article, or send it out, and if it accepted, you have won the prize.

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In Rebuttal

It isn’t often I bother to pick bones with other blog writers. However, Fred Reed’s recent column was asking for bone pickers. Though, let’s face it; all his columns ask for bone pickers. In that one, he states that the reason our classrooms are such a mess is that we have women teaching in them. This is an unfair accusation. Women have traditionally been the grade school teachers in this country. They were hired to do this, because school boards, in their august male wisdom, did not wish to pay what a man would be likely to charge. They preferred to hire untried young girls, often still in their teens, as it was believed that it would not be quite moral to hire a married woman. It was presumed that the young girls they hired were either living at home, or with neighbors who would at least be willing to foot some of her expenses, as the school boards were certainly not going to pay her enough to be able to cover them herself.

This was in the bad old days of the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries. We are presumed to be more civilized now. Be that as it may, it was out of these roots that teaching came to be considered one of the traditional women’s jobs, along with nursing and secretarial work. Through all the years of women dominating the teaching profession, the notion of drugging little boys to get them to behave did not fully raise its reptilian head till the mid nineteen eighties, when the drug companies were looking for more ways to make a profit. The idea that ADHD was anything other than a somewhat slower development of some of the cognitive senses did not come to the fore until then. It was the blending of corporate drugs and corporate psychology that gave birth to the notion that at least every other little boy aught to be drugged to the extent that he is not conscious of what is happening around him.

For the rest, such as; the policemen in our schools, where they absolutely do not belong, giving rise to children being carted off to the police station in handcuffs, is frightfully disturbing to everyone who cares about our children.

This state of affairs has nothing to do with women being in control, and everything to do with corporate interests being in control. It is because exist to make the large corporate shareholders rich that this country’s factory work was first outsourced to other countries, and then back to our own prisons. And what a deal they get for enslaving our prisoners. Our State and Federal governments still pay to keep our prisoners housed, fed, clothed and guarded. But now, the factories are inside the prisons, where they have virtual slave labor. Yes, the era of the slave has not died. Very few people who have not been inside our prisons actually know what goes on there.

And guess what; our friendly and helpful corporate leaders are doing everything they can to have more laws passed, along with harsher prison sentences. They want more people in prison to work in their factories. What we see in our schools is the systematic training of our children to not only put up with, but to expect to be put to work in prison factories. That is what the policemen in our schools and the wholesale drugging of our children is about. It has nothing to do with the fact that women teach.

Now, as far as separating the sexes in our public schools goes, not only would the boys profit by this, but so would the girls. It has been proven that girls have a much stronger sense of self esteem, and are able to learn better, when they are in classrooms made up of girls. This holds true as long as the girls are not slighted in terms of academic training.

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Moving is a pain. I had not planned on having to leave the house where I had been living with my sister and her husband for the last eight years. There were times during those eight years when I almost thought the situation could work out. Whenever I had doubts, I would talk with my brother-in-law, or my sister, and they would tell me I was being paranoid. So, I stayed. However, while I was making plans for better things, life happened.

Relatives — family in general — are often among the most difficult people to get along with. We either take them for granted or we curse them, because they do not think, or see the world in the same way we do.

I have often extolled the virtues of the extended family. The notion of siblings, parents, children and grandchildren building their home together, or at least living in the same neighborhood, much as our grandparents and great-grandparents did when they first arrived in this country, could be among the best ways to deal with an economic situation that is steadily going downhill. People made a point of looking out for each other. The children knew everyone in the neighborhood, and everyone knew them, so they tended to be safe. Such neighborhoods were common up until the middle of the Twentieth Century. That is about the time when corporate jobs reigned supreme, and people traveled across the country and back, in order to get and keep them.

Now, those jobs are going the way of the Dodo Bird. The sorts of jobs available today tend to be part time work at minimum wage, or even less. It isn’t enough to live on. They are not the sorts of jobs that would be worth leaving town to find, or earning a college degree to do them. But that is what is being required of people now. With our economy collapsing, it is time we learned to use the skills we have, in order to take care of each other.

The once powerful middle class we had back in the nineteen fifties and sixties hardly exists anymore. Today, we have a small percentage of our population, who enjoys uber-wealth, and who dedicate their lives to accumulating more wealth and the absolute power that comes with it, while the rest of us are the unter — the ones who are just managing to live respectable and honorable lives. The idea that our children will be able to do better than we did, through the opportunities of superior education and advantages we did not have when we grew up, has died. Graduates from our colleges and universities come out with a lifetime worth of debt, and a dwindling job market to choose from. We have all been sliding the slope of downward mobility.

One answer to this problem is going back to live within extended families. However, our society has been sick for so many years, that the mere thought of going back to live with parents and siblings sends chills of apprehension and fear, racing up and down our spines.

Members of the middle class in our society tend to be decidedly against helping members of their respective families attain and maintain a middle class standard of living. This phenomenon has been described in psychology textbooks for many years. Middle class people who have been successful feel they have worked hard to achieve what they have, and everyone else should be expected to do the same for themselves. We have forgotten the stories of how some of our families could only afford to send one son to college, while his parents and sisters and brothers worked to pay his expenses. When that son graduated, he was expected to return at least some of those favors that his family had extended to him.

According to these texts, only the very upper and the very lower classes, who traditionally believe they have an obligation to other adult members of their families. Now, when traditionally middle class people find themselves in the position of having to go to slightly more affluent members of their families for help, they are likely to meet with resentment and outright animosity. We have forgotten how to accept and respect each other, so that we can live and succeed in a world that is making increasingly difficult demands on us.

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Developing the Art of Writing

What would I tell you, if you were just starting out to learn the art of writing? First, I would ask what kind of writing you want to do, and I would ask what sort of reading you like most, for you will ultimately be most comfortable writing that sort of literature. At the very least, the books you have loved most will be the unconscious yardstick by which you hold your writing.

Most of good writers spend time almost every day writing. Then they go over what we have written, looking for ways to explain their ideas better. Perhaps there is a scene with a man riding a bus. The character in your story thought he saw the flash of something belted around the man’s waist, under his jacket, that looks like it could be explosives. What does your character do? Does he attempt to get close enough to the man to defuse what he believes is a bomb, and get into an acutely embarrassing situation? Perhaps what your man saw wasn’t a bomb at all, but a brace the man needed to support his back. Everyone makes mistakes, or perhaps it wasn’t really a mistake.

Your job as the writer is to describe the scene so that your readers understand what is happening and why your main character behaves the way he does. You learn how to do this better by writing. Writing stories, articles, and even books. Whatever you feel inspired to write; do it.

Do not expect perfection. If you are lucky, you may be able to join a writer’s group with other writers who are as determined as you are to improve their craft and get published. If this group is small enough so that you are each able to critique the other members’ writing, you will have a chance to learn a lot. Each of you in turn, spending time listening to what the others have to say about your work creates a certain amount of tension, keeping each person on his toes to give his best work. It is also fascinating how much you can learn about writing by critiquing someone else’s work. When you sit down to think what would be necessary to make the other participant’s stories work, you begin to see ways to make your writing better.

For instance, you may see that someone’s descriptions are either more verbose than they need to be, or nonexistent, when you would like to know more about where his story is taking place. You read through his manuscript and mark the places where you believe changes should be made. Or, you read someone’s story and the dialogue may feel stilted, so you start altering that dialogue to suit your sensibilities. As you write and edit your own manuscript, you become more aware of these sorts of things. And that is how you learn to write well.

There are online writer’s groups and some of them are better than others. However, they can be decent alternatives if you cannot find a group near where you live that would permit new members to join. Most important though is to read examples of good writing that you really enjoy, and then write, every day; reading analytically so that you can begin to understand how a good writer works with and describes the different situations in his novels.

Like learning how to drive a car, you drive and drive until stepping on the clutch and changing gears becomes automatic to the point that you no longer have to think how and when to do it. So it is with writing. The more you write and the more you edit what you write, the better you will be at getting your ideas across on paper.


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My Aging Mind

I keep denying that I have any problem remembering stuff. At least I think I can claim that I don’t have any real problems that way. My mind has only wandered away a few times, leaving me standing in front of the refrigerator to wonder why I was there. Did I even want to get something to eat? Probably not, as the sight of all that food didn’t trigger my appetite.

The mind is a wonderful thing; our ability to think and reason and deal with our emotions is much more who and what we are than is the work we do, And yet, so many things interfere with that ability. Emotional upsets can leave us spinning in our tracks. It is a truism; you should not make important decisions when you are under stress, and yet we are invariably stressed out when we have to make important decisions.

If we are over-tired, our minds tend to try to take us anywhere, except to the task we need to get done. I set myself up in my favorite chair, with a cushion at my back, and a light; one of those old fashioned bulbs that we used to take for granted, as they are the only ones that work in my three-way lamps, and attempt to concentrate. Sometimes I really do manage to to that. And other times, I wind up in front of the computer, playing a game of solitaire. I play solitaire only because I am stressed and cannot concentrate on the job I need to get done. I just know that after an hour or two of playing computer games I will feel a whole lot better. Right.

There are times when attempting to discipline myself to concentrate on a task for more than a few moments yields nothing. I believe this syndrome is a very common defense against burnout. As we all know, an over-abundance of a given task, with no let-up, can make us go bonkers, ready to hide in the closet and chew on our shoes, if we have to do that task even one more time. Regular intervals of rest and renewal, followed by concentrated work, are wonderful, when your schedule permits you to balance your time that way.

The old saying, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, was common up through the 1920s. It had to do with that tendency to keep children busy with school work and chores, never permitting them time to play. Even then, people recognized that play is essential to healthy children. By the 1940s, that saying was shortened, and became the saying of workaholics, All work and no play makes Jack. Jack being money.

And yet, especially when building a business, and I am doing this during the third trimester of my life, we need to remember to balance work with recreation. To make time to be with friends, as this is most important to maintain sanity, as well as clarity of mind.

And what about memory loss? Is the fact that I could not maintain that subject throughout this essay a sign that my mind is aging, or is it merely a sign of fatigue — lack of sleep, coupled with too many things to think about?

You see, the changes an older mind experiences are subtle, and possibly affected by our expectations. Being nervous and upset can make it hard to remember my own name, let alone something I never gave much thought to.

On the other hand, anger sharpens the intellect. Oh, the snide remarks I think of when I am angry. They wouldn’t even occur to me when I am at peace with the world. It almost makes me feel as though it would pay to be angry most of the time. However, I can seldom maintain my anger, as it has become too easy to laugh over situations that could be quite annoying. Sooner or later, all those upsetting situations strike me as being ridiculous, and then it’s over; I start laughing. I suppose I should chalk that up to being another sign of senility.


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What History Teaches

The World is so full of a number of things;
I think we should all be as happy as kings.

We tend to look back on previous centuries with a sense of nostalgia. We don’t want to believe that the lives people lived in those days were as heavily shadowed by the sense of impending evil as ours are now. In 1885, when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the above verse for his children’s book of poetry, A Child’s Garden of Verses, there were unjust wars of aggression being fought, nearly as much as now.

Let’s see, there was war in the Khartoum in the Sudan. Great Britain declared Bechuana Land a protectorate that year. She did want to protect her interests in that country, though it is highly debatable whether her protection did the people of that land any good at all. Africa still reels from the injustices of the apartheid established then.

The Battle of Batoche was fought that year, by the French Canadians who were rebelling against Canadian rule. I don’t recall mention of that battle in the U.S. history books, when I went to school. However, the French Canadians truly did want their independence from a government many of them believed had become too intrusive.

German Chancellor Bismark took possession of Togoland. My goodness — all those place names that we have forgotten, because maps have changed so much. Togoland was a blip on the northern shore of the Gulf of Guinea.

The U.S. ended her Reciprocity and Fishery agreements with Canada that year, proof that our relationship with that country has not always been easy.

On December 17, France declared Madagascar a protectorate. Again, France’s interests were more important than were the interests of the people living in that country she so blithely took over.

By 1885, we were well into the industrial revolution — changing from a society that was largely agrarian, where most people owned or rented farms and gardens, to one oriented to support of large concentrated populations in cities. Family farms, largely due to the prevailing bank management practices, began to collapse and people moved in masses to the cities in hope of finding work. This left large tracts of land open for the industrial farms to take over food production in this country. There was also a massive influx of people from Europe, hoping for a better life in the United States. The influx of people swelling the populations in our cities, peaked during the late eighteen hundreds.

For the factory owners and heads of corporations, it was an influx of potential slave labor. Except, unlike the Southern plantation owners, the factory owner was under no obligation to keep his workers healthy, or even alive. After all, the factory owner had not gone to the expense of having to pay someone else for his workers. His workers came to him gratis, by the dozens and hundreds, every day. He was under no compunction to pay them more than just enough to keep them alive. He could get away with paying wages that were just high enough to keep men, women and children coming back — and if his workers were severely injured, or even died, either because of dangerous conditions on the job, or because of near-starvation and filthy living conditions at home, it didn’t matter because there were always more people to keep his machines running. The slaves in the South had one thing going for them that the factory workers in the North did not have, and that was the financial investment that their owners had made in them. While life as a slave was never enviable, the slave owner understood that it was to his advantage to keep his slaves reasonably healthy. After all, he had made a fairly sizable financial investment in them, when he bought them.

Corporate lawyers claimed that factory workers were not really slaves, because they didn’t have to work for those companies. After all, the workers were free to choose to starve and live in the same squalor, while working at another factory.

In 1885 the battles between the unions and the corporate owners began to build up. It was those hard-fought battles that gave us the much vaunted forty hour work week and raised the concept of the living wage — a single pay check being enough to keep a husband, wife and two children comfortably fed, clothed and housed. This is the concept that people forget when they denigrate women working outside the home. We live in a world now, where women cannot afford not to work for wages. The housing bubble of the late Twentieth Century, made mince-meat of the concept of the living wage. Whether young families attempted to buy their homes, or rent, costs were so high that two incomes were needed to keep their families housed.

Whether our unions came to be as corrupt as corporate apologists would like to say they did, is a moot point. They no longer exist. The forty hour work week, which our grandparents and great grandparents fought so hard to win, has been disappearing. Those of us who have jobs can expect to work sixty to eighty and more hours every week. And the concept of a living wage is one many of us only dream about. Too many people are working seven days a week at two, or even three jobs, just to keep a roof over their heads.

Then, as now, it wasn’t a bad time to be alive, if you had the spirit and enough cash to do it well. However, the die was cast. The corporate take-over of our world had its birth during the late eighteen hundreds. People with insight and imagination could see what was coming long before it happened.

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With a Little Help From My Friends

My birthday came and went. Some years I have wondered whether anyone remembers, or even cares. My children have moved on and are in the midst of building their own lives. They don’t have time for an aging parent, especially one who could not be with them when they were growing up, thanks to the nasty divorce she had with their father.

While I have told them over and over that I love them, and that I have always missed them, they figure that my love is cheap, and it certainly does not assuage their anger. So I know, as I progress through the third trimester of my life, I cannot turn to any of them for companionship. I am left looking at my friends, and I find that I am blessed.

These are people who gladly say they would never let me have to live on the street, should worse come to worst. They are people who are so vastly different from me, in the way they understand the world, I wonder that they care about me as much as they do.

I am a rampant liberal. If I root for anybody in the great scheme of things, it is for the oppressed. I cheer whenever anyone manages to successfully fight big government and big banks. And while I love being Jewish, I am not proud of the things many Jews do, in the name of Judaism. For me, Zionism, as it has become is an outrage to both Jews and Christians, and I do not believe it should be considered part and parcel with Judaism. I weep over the destruction Israel creates.

However, discussing any of these issues with my friends gets nowhere. They are elderly people who have lived their lives as honorably as they could. Even if the things I might say did chip away at some of their long-held beliefs, what good would it do in the great scheme of things? We fight and work now for what we believe is best, as they fought and worked for what they believed was best, when they were young. And that is as it should be.

Ultimately, we are not in a position to stop the billions of US dollars going to Israel every day. Nor, short of a complete revolution, can we destroy AIPAC’s control of our congress.

As long as the battles of war are continued on foreign shores and few of us have any real idea what is going on in the Middle East, most of us do not have to pay attention to it. However, the destruction shows signs that it will not continue to stay in distant villages, of which most of us have never heard. It shows signs of moving home to our streets and towns, and it will no longer be simply a matter of high sounding principles.

It feels as though organizations more powerful than most of us can imagine are out to destroy the world as we know it. It is as though we were again the indigenous people of the New World and the invasion were starting all over again.

Our existence is as surely threatened as anyone’s ever has been, and we will all die if we don’t learn how to stand up together and help each other.

Each man for himself is a passe concept, for each man fighting for the one pinnacle of rock poking its nose above the flood line, will drown when the deluge comes. But communities working together to build trade lines and currencies that are not tied to Big Banks, skills and the ability to make things people need to not only survive, but to live, that are not tied to Big Industry, health care that is not tied to Big Pharma, food supplies that are not tied to Big Agra, and education that is not tied to corporate universities, as well as energy supplies that are not tied to Big Corporations, stand a much better chance of surviving into the next generation and the one beyond.

The work of establishing such communities is not only holy, it is honorable. And it doesn’t matter what any of us believe, we all have a part to play in this. It is what we do that counts, not what we claim to believe or disbelieve.

And so, I am looking at life, not quite alone, but surrounded by friends, whom I love, and who I know care about me, even though we disagree.

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A Very Short, Very Sad Story

Falling in love is easy — until you know it can never amount to much. I reached that conclusion the day I turned sixty – the big six 0, and realized that a two time divorcee, who had little money and not much interest in raising someone else’ children, would never find a good mate of the male persuasion in this life-time.

Now, don’t weep for me. Life is, and you learn from every moment of it, or it’s hardly worth living. Look at the way a new baby puts its entire concentration into studying its fingers and learning how to pick things up. The miracle of a two-year-old, learning how to put spoken language together, with no one to teach him, for goodness sake. Why is it so difficult for the average adult to duplicate that facet of learning? We require teachers and we stumble through endless vocabulary lists, attempting to memorize words and their meanings. It takes us years to figure out how to put it all together, so that we can actually speak that language. It’s as though we have closed down a large portion of our minds.

I suppose the best we can do, the best I can do at this late date, is keep my mind and heart open to what is around me, as an infant does, in order to learn how to negotiate his way through the world. It wasn’t easy to come to that conclusion.

I had never sung in public before. There I was in my mid-fifties, having lived alone for so many years I had lost count of them. Over time, people heard me sing, and told me I should be leading the music at the synagogue I attend. I had been a non-religious Jew, and didn’t know Hebrew, and had not heard the music before. What people said they wanted me to do involved learning the language, and the melodies, as well as getting past my innate shyness. The fact that I had no musical background only added to the fun.

It was a lot of work, more than I really wanted to put into the project at that time. However, I was at an age where I realized that if I did not do this singing, I never would. So I did. I learned how to chant Torah, and I learned how to lead some of the music. There have been times when I felt as though I carried the entire synagogue on the wings of my voice, and times when I wished I had never tried to open my mouth in public. There were times when I felt as though this voice — this voice that no one but me had ever thought was much of anything, had become a burden, as suddenly, it came to light that I had this blessing and it was my duty to share it. It came at a time of life when my voice is changing. I can no longer spend hours practicing till I have every note running clear, like liquid gold, just as I can no longer climb stairs as easily as I once could. Even so, singing is a manifestation of creativity. And for the person whose soul is nourished by the act of tapping into that stream of consciousness, creativity must come out in one form or another, if not many forms at all times.

Building a life is a form of creativity. It is the deepest, most important aspect of creativity. All the rest, whether it be writing, music, acting, painting, or building, is but the scaffolding that holds our lives together.

Twice I was able to create a stir, the combination of voice, singing above on the power of love, as well as opening up to the inner child, for I had no idea what I would sing before I opened my mouth. And then came the work of attempting to live up to those special performances — those times when it had been no one but God and me up there in front of everyone. And always there is the fear that I would not be able to do as well the next time. It comes down to the fact that I love the people I sing for. They are good people and all G-d’s children.

It’s learning to let the artist in me emerge in whatever form comes to hand. It’s all part of letting the heart open to the eternal creation.

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Boundaries – by Elizabeth Nunez

We discover subtle cultural differences between the places where we lived, and the places we move to, even when that move is within the same state or the same country. Most of us are second, third or fourth generations immigrants. Sadly, most of us either forgot or were never told the stories of our forebears and their struggles to adjust to an alien culture, or the problems they may have had when they went back to their native homes to visit relatives left behind. During the 1920s and 1930s, many of the new immigrants wanted to forget that they had been Germans or Swedes or Italians. They were gladly wading through the so-called melting pot, pushing their children to be good Americans, whatever their concept of that may have been. They were not interested in teaching their children their native languages, and there was little interest displayed in their households for the ways of the Old Country, until the grand children and great grand children came along, wanting to learn about their roots.

Elizabeth Nunez writes with affection about the adjustment one immigrant from the Caribbean had to make. Her character is a young woman who attends college in the States, then returns home expecting to be able to use her expensive education and build a comfortable career for herself. The career never materializes. She is a woman and even though she is from a respected family, no one is interested in hiring her. She lives in her parents’ home, doing menial jobs around the town that she would have been able to get without the expensive education. So, she moves back to the States, settles in New York City and works for the editor of a publishing house. Anna Sinclair is black and educated, so for a time she is head of a department, within that publishing house, that is intended to showcase Black writers. It is a lovely concept, and Anna wants to promote books that are well-written and that educated people of any race would enjoy reading. She wants to prove that Black writers can write about things other than sex and violence, and she would like to stimulate Black readers to appreciate literate novels.

However, the bottom line in that fictional publishing house is money. And sex and the promotion of sex sells. She is replaced by a Black man who has neither the education nor the experience she has in the publishing world, but he is more than willing to promote what sells — books with plenty of sex.

Anna must learn the hard way that even though she is black, she is not part of the black culture in the United States, as her family had never been slaves. So, adjusting to life in this country means adjusting to live in two or more worlds, and not being accepted by any of them.

Not only must Anna deal with cultural differences, she must deal with the angst of a mother daughter relationship that feels lacking. Her mother has always been remote. It was her father who gave her affection. Her mother may have been trying to teach her daughter what she believed to be a necessary strength — the ability to stand alone within household situations that could be less than nurturing.

Anna ultimately never feels at home either in this country or in her native country, and she learns to come to terms with that, as well as learning to understand who her mother was and what her mother was trying to teach her.

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Book Review: The Land of Decoration

The Land of Decoration
by Grace McCleen

It isn’t easy being the youngest child in your class at school, especially when you are probably the most intelligent one there. The older students tend to be jealous over the honor you have been given, and they tend to pick on you, seemingly with impunity. It doesn’t help either, if your family doesn’t have much money, and your mother is dead, and your father is too upset by that to act like he loves you. It can be a pretty lonely life.

Shortly after they were married, Judith’s parent’s converted to a fundamentalist Christian sect. The relatives could not understand why the young couple chose to do this, and most of them refused to have anything more to do with them. When Judith was born, her mother hemorrhaged, and refused to permit the doctors to giver her a transfusion. She died, the baby lived, and the father could not forgive God for what happened, though he never says this in so many words.

Would I dare say this is a coming of age story? It is more than that. What this book does do is seriously question where sanity begins and ends where religion is concerned. Faith is often defined as belief in that which cannot be seen. The scriptures tell us that if we had even a little bit of faith — as though faith could be measured in inches and pounds and ounces — we could make anything happen.

In an attempt to get closer to her mother, Judith has saved every scrap she knows once belonged to her. She has a collection of bits of fabric and trinkets that her mother had saved from who-knows-when. With these and other pieces of junk Judith picks up on the playground and saves from the trash, she builds herself a little town. She makes houses out of scraps and oddments and people out of pipe cleaners and bits of fabric — ponds and trees out of broken mirrors and leaves and sticks picked up from the ground. She has worked on this village for years, till it spreads across her bedroom floor. Now it is October. School is not a pleasant place, due to the near constant teasing of one particular boy.

A voice materializes in her head. “Make it snow,” it tells her. So, she gathers powder from the bathroom flour from the kitchen and fluff from her pillow and sprinkles them down on her town till it is covered with snow. That night, it really does snow — a freak storm that closes school for a day, and has her amazed that she really did make it snow. But, who can she tell of this amazing power she has? No one believes her. Her voice tells her, “Make it snow again.” So, she again layers the floor of her room — her village — with ‘snow.’ And it snows again. Her voice begins to tell her to do some rather frightening and destructive things to some of the people in her pretend village, who have hurt her in real life, and they are destroyed in real life.

As a result of all the snow, her father loses his job. She tries to fix things. However, as with most good stories, her attempts only go wrong. She wants to tell people that she is the cause of all the destruction, and that it is through her faith in God that all this happens. Ultimately — but why spoil a good story before you have a chance to read it?

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Abuse and Forgiveness

The most important piece of equipment we start with is what we learned from our parents as we grew up. And if what they taught us was flawed or even destructive, then it was a burden, which may take the rest of our lives to learn how to let go of. It generally takes years to get past the destructive influences we grew up with. Learning what it means to forgive, and and what to forgive and how to grant that forgiveness, both within ourselves and to the other people involved, is a series of tough lessons, especially when it involves learning to forget.
William Blake, known for his spiritual insights, wrote a poem about anger and forgiveness and wrongs:

A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

Here we expect to see the usual homily on letting go of our anger, learning to speak in ways that are healing for both the person who did the wrong and the person who was hurt, so that the two of them may move on with their lives. It involves twisting our desires for revenge into non destructive channels. His advice in this verse is to communicate why we are upset to the person who hurt us, so that understanding on both sides can be reached.

But, the way he describes treating his foe, is a different story altogether:

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

When we consider what we are usually taught concerning desire and wrongs that have been done to us, we would expect Blake to describe his own downfall before the poem ends. However:

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

The poem is about sweet revenge. Of course he does not speak of what may have happened next. Did he ever feel a sense of contrition over having so thoroughly trounced his foe? The poem does not speak of that. It speaks instead of the joy of revenge.

And revenge is something we should dearly love to take out on our dysfunctional parents. The joy of taking the upper hand just once, so that we can rub their faces in the hurt they caused us, would be so satisfying. It is easier to forgive them after such a showdown. Forgiving and forgetting, before we have taught them the lessons we believe they have earned, seems so mealy mouthed. After all, we would like them to tell us that they were sorry for what they did — before we forgive them. And it is most satisfying of all when they know, without a shadow of doubt — the pain they caused us, and what they did to cause it. Hmm … outstretched beneath the tree … totally vanquished …

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Fascist Nation

It has been stated by army generals, no less, that the US is headed down the road towards Socialism. The argument is:

1 – Parts of the United States economy are being nationalized. That statement could mean many things. First, our corporations are in control of the economy. Their lawyers and CEOs have successfully campaigned for control over every aspect of how we are able to earn a living, even to making it illegal to run a factory[link to news about Gibson guitar factory] in this country that pays a living wage to its employees. Prison labor is now the standard.

2 – The increasingly strict education of our children, with the cutbacks in recess time for the very young, along with cuts in the programs such as art, music and the humanities, as well as the enforcement of rules permitting no consideration of extenuating circumstances or even allowing a child to be a child.

How many youngsters have sat through dull lectures by their teachers, while doodling sketches of rockets on their notebooks? Rockets are easy shapes to draw, and they feature in many cartoons. Once upon a time, such doodling was seen as simply part of growing up. Now, children are often expelled from school for that sort of behavior. Five-year-old children have recently been expelled for simply pointing their fingers in imitation of a gun. Public schools across this nation, appear to be geared towards getting all of our children inured to being in prison from an early age. The number of laws for all of us have been increased to the point that it is impossible for a person not to break some of them even though we attempt to do everything legally.

3- Our powerful corporate CEOs and lawyers, who incidentally are the only people wealthy enough to be permitted to run for congress, are pushing for longer prison sentences. This is because it is good business for the corporations. While the State and Federal governments continue to pay for the upkeep of the prisons, the corporations move their factories inside them, where they then have essentially free labor. It is an even better deal for them than the institution of slavery was years ago.

They may keep prisoners working sixteen hour days, seven days a week. And they only have to pay those workers pennies a day, because hey — they’re prisoners. This is where our children and grand children are headed, and it doesn’t look much like socialism to me.

4 – The redistribution of wealth. In a truly socialistic system, wealth is distributed outward, so that the economic playing field is equalized, and everyone’s basic needs are covered. In our economy wealth is being redistributed in massive amounts to the corporations and the banks, putting the rest of us perpetually in debt to them.

It is a terrible system for us. Let us count the ways. First, every dollar that the Federal Government authorizes to be printed is handed over to what is known as the Federal Bank, which is in reality a private bank with links to the Rothschild banking conglomerate. This bank then lends it back to our government at interest. That is what our taxes pay for. Even if we gave every single dollar in existence back to the bank, that debt would not be paid.

5 – Disenfranchisement of private citizens. At one time I would have considered our government in Washington DC to be our government. I no longer do, as the popular vote no longer means anything. It is our government in name only. It belongs entirely to the corporate conglomerates. Perhaps local elections are still meaningful, however you must be careful with those, checking out the voting records of the people running for office, so you know where they stand on the issues that are important to you.

6 – The militarization of our police. The poorest people in this country have always known that they could not depend on the police to defend them in any sort of crisis, as the police would either not show up, or if they did, they became gratuitously violent towards everyone they encountered. Now, police forces across the country are proudly training with the United States and Israeli armed forces. I am not certain what business the Israeli armed forces have in this country training our police. Be that as it may, our police forces are learning tactics intended to contain a country at war. The moves they take pride in learning are to their shame, as they now use them against the population they swore to defend when they joined the police force. Now there is no question that our police defend the only real people our Government works for — the corporations. The rest of us are simply animals.

Add to this our status of being perpetually at war with the countries Israel would like us to eradicate for them. Our sons and daughters are giving their lives to defend a foreign country that is doing everything it can to make enemies with its neighbors. This writer sees these things as having nothing to do with Socialism, and everything to do with a fascist totalitarian regime.

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Prejudice in the Good Ol’ US of A

Occasionally I read the Fred on Everything column. He generally makes you laugh over his hardheadedness. He brings up a lot of points, biased ones, as well as points that are worth considering.

Having taught, admittedly only for a short while, in a school predominantly populated with kids who came from families that were traditionally blue collar — and you know what has happened to most of the blue-collar jobs in this country. They have been downgraded, cheapened, and disappeared. The relative pay for the jobs that are left has decreased to the point of being laughable. (Joe Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN) for 6 a.m. While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN HONG KONG). He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA), designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE) and tennis shoes (MADE IN KOREA).

After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN INDIA) he sat down with his calculator (MADE IN MEXICO) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (MADE IN TAIWAN) to the radio (MADE IN INDIA) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB.

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day, Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZIL) poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE) and turned on his TV (MADE IN INDONESIA), and then wondered why he can’t find a good paying job in…..AMERICA….. – Jim Ewart) There were a few black kids in that school, and quite a few racially mixed, though the white kids were in the majority. Most of the children in that school, both black and white, came from families that had never considered an education to be an escape from poverty. There were kids who announced with pride that they never read anything, and no one was going to be able to make them read anything. And when I look at the high cost of obtaining a college degree, with its attendant debt that can last a lifetime, I wonder if perhaps those kids weren’t on to something.

His article claims that the reason black kids — or indeed any poor kids — don’t make it through our school system and win scholarships is that they don’t apply themselves, which is a shame. However, there is another side to that coin. The fact that when a student from a low-income family does apply himself, and shows that he is mentally creative and intelligent, carrying consistently high grades and meeting all the requirements to win a scholarship, the teachers turn up their noses and say that if they gave it to him, he would not know what to do with it. Instead, they give it to a child from a more well-to-do family, even if that child does not demonstrate the talent and ability that the boy from the poor home does. Doesn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart?

I have seen teachers insist that their black students are not capable of doing advanced credit work, even when they show every sign that they can — including keeping their grades up. I have also seen black students who were so cowed by their school experiences that they were afraid to show even one spark of creativity. They had been sometimes brutally taught that everything they did had to be by the book, because they would otherwise lose grade points.

Still, Fred makes a good point where Ebonics are concerned. As with any other form of slang in the English language, it is a sign of belonging to a group. As such, there is nothing wrong with it. However, that does not mean that the speakers of said slang cannot or should not be able to speak and use standard English. He is right when he says that Black people who live in nearly every other country in the world speak the dominant language, and speak it well. There is nothing wrong with their ability to communicate. Many European Black people speak several languages. This is not a sign that they lack intelligence.

A note on the side: I have written memoirs for a few black women. Each of them, when referring to their mother, spoke of her as Mama. To my mind, that term is a form of endearment. It sounded sweet to my ears. And because that was the way they spoke, that was the term I used when I wrote the rough draft of their memoirs. I do try to use words and phrases my clients would be likely to use, so that the finished book sounds as though he or she could have written it. Almost as soon as they received these drafts, they called me back to say, “Where did you get that word Mama? it sounds uneducated. Use Mother.” You see, they want to sound educated.

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The Snow Child – by Eowyn Ivy

Homesteading could be thought of as establishing a business. It is a brutal business; dependent on what you understanding is of farming unbroken land, and your ability to do that. It is a gamble with the elements, the weather, the soil, and your ability to keep on working no matter how sick or tired you might get. After all, you could endure several years of drought, followed by flooding that would wipe all your labor out.

It is the mid 1920s. In order to succeed, you must be ready to learn — quickly — what will grow on the land you have, and how to take care of it. Mabel and Jack have left everything they know in Pennsylvania, where they lived all their lives, to attempt homesteading in Alaska. Eowyn Ivy does not specify where in Alaska they are — only that the land is a mountainous wilderness with miles of trees and hills between each homestead and the nearest town.

They both wanted to have children, but were not able to do so. They lost their first child, and Mabel could not conceive again. She hoped that the closeness to nature in Alaska, as well as the enforced isolation from family and friends, who all expected them to have several children, would help her spirit to heal.

The Snow Child is a sophisticated take on the fairy tales of spirit children coming to parents who want and would love to have a child above all else, as well as legends of feral children, of which at least some of those fairy tales may be imaginative descriptions of feral children, who grow up in the wild with little or no understanding of how to get along with people, and were later compelled to take part in human society. Those children invariably created havoc along the way.

Faina, a child of perhaps six or seven, watched her father die. He had been a hunter, trapper and a recluse, who taught his daughter to be more at home with the wild animals than with people. After his death, she miraculously survives on her own through the Alaskan winter by trapping small animals, and foraging for wild plants during the summer. Jacob and Mabel, in love with the winter-land beauty around them, go out one evening to build themselves a snow child. She has yellow straw for hair, a red scarf and mittens, supplied by Mabel, and an artfully carved face, by Jack.

In the morning, the scarf and mittens are gone. Jack catches a glimpse of a child running through the woods, barely leaving any footprints. She wears the scarf and mittens, and she runs much faster than Jack, a healthy grown man, can. The first time he sees her, he quickly loses sight of her in the woods, because he cannot keep up with her. He is caught, stiffly wading through snow, while the child skims across the surface, barely leaving a footprint. When Mabel learns of this child, she considers her to be a sprite, born of her longing for a child of her own.

The writing is stark, simple and what is often called luminous. Half myth, half what could have been, it is a story of love and growth, which is what the great myths and fairy tails are all about.

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On Earning a Living

Simply earning a living is getting harder to do in this economy, with jobs disappearing by the thousands, on a daily basis. Corporations are outsourcing as much as they can to what is euphemistically called the cloud. There are countless people who sign in to places like Amazon Turk, in order to do work that might pay two or three cents an hour, if they are lucky. Now, they have been broken down to meaningless bits, much like breaking the process of building furniture or cars down to assembly line procedures, so that one person can stand in a line-up of people doing nothing but tighten the same bolt all day long, in every car, or every chair that goes by. For a while, our unions did ensure that those people earned enough to be able to live. That ended in the 1960s and 70s, when the unions were systematically torn down, and what is left of them too often panders to the corporate elite.

Now, the unions have been all but completely crushed. It is now an actionable crime to own factories within the United States that pay their workers a living wage. The industry standard in the Twenty-first Century is sweat shops and prison labor. The rest of us are considered to be part of the cloud, that may be continuously cleaned out for money and labor, but never paid, or if we are paid, what we receive is less than subsistence level.

So, entrepreneurs, especially the ones working alone, who are attempting to establish viable businesses, are up against a tremendous amount in terms of finding clients who are able to pay them for the work they do. I have talked with many writers and editors who claim they are having an increasingly difficult time getting paid by so-called corporations for their work. They also have a much harder time finding clients who are able to pay them for the work they do.

The July/August issue of UTNE featured two articles about the struggles young college grads are having paying back their loans; Minimum Rage, and The PhD Now Comes With Food Stamps, and keeping a roof over their heads. Statistics for this phenomenon are easy to find.

All of this points to the fact that somehow we need to develop alternative currencies, so that we can afford to do the work we would like to do as the economy we have depended on all our lives is being systematically pulled apart. Corporate lawyers have seen to it that our government pays them to send jobs overseas. Contracts for infrastructure repairs on our streets and bridges are going to Chinese construction firms. The excuse given by our elected politicians for this behavior is that there are no longer people in the United States who know how to do this kind of repair. The truth is that Chinese workers are paid so little that it is cheaper to import them to do this work, than it is to pay workers a living wage here at home.

One or two people cannot fight this trend alone. Even fifty or a hundred people would be squashed within moments. Protests, with their marchers, shouters and sign carriers are no longer enough. It will take concerted action — civil disobedience, combined with the steady build up of alternative economies. Secession. Secession? Yes, secession. And knowing that 40 to 45-percent real unemployment that this country carries is not our individual fault. Yes, individually, we have made mistakes on the job. Who hasn’t? There are always things we could have done better. We could have been more suave and more productive. We might have been able to hang onto our jobs a few months, or even a few years longer — if only. But it is not our fault that it is now United States corporate policy to hire United States citizens as little as possible.

What are your experiences? Tell me about them. I am collecting information for interviews and perhaps a book.

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Birth of a Book #3

As you can see, editing is an art. I’ve changed at least one of the names of my characters, and I will more than likely change a few more, before this is finished. Josepha’s occupation has changed; she now works in a law office.

I am not showing all the changes, as that could be tedious. But do bear in mind that this story could go in many different directions.


Josepha stretched and looked around. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep like that.”

Tim stood up, grasped her hand in both of his and deposited a sloppy kiss on her fingers. Josepha couldn’t wait for him to let her go, so she could head to the bathroom to wash her hands.

“You, you are … I have never seen anyone like you.” Loretta held Josepha’s other hand and wept, dripping tears on her.

Josepha tried to stand up, saying, “I think I need to get home to bed.”

Louise put her arm around her shoulders. “No, dear. After what you have been through, you are going to spend the night right here. I’ll fix up the guest room for you.”

The guest room wasn’t quite as creepy as the rest of the house. The bed wasn’t more than a hundred years old, and it did have a new mattress — at least it wasn’t original to the bed. She really was tired, so she permitted herself to be lead off by her mother, while Tim Allen and Loretta James let themselves out the door.

She tumbled into bed hoping that she could just get to sleep, so that she could get up early enough to get back to her house and put on a fresh skirt and blouse before going to the office. She did not want to have to call in late or sick, knowing her boss was in trouble. Though, truth to tell, it would be so lovely simply to forget all the problems.

The wind howled around the corner of the building and she could see by the light of the street lamp that the snow was still coming down. It looked like the storm was picking up. Most unusual for October. The whole mess should melt away within a day or two, and leave them a few more weeks of fall weather before winter really set in.

Odd, she thought she could hear the sound of a player piano — some rollicking melody that she could not identify. Her parents had owned an antique player piano when she was little. She and her friends used to insist on running all the piano rolls through it. As she recalled, one enterprising boy had tried to cut two fo the rolls up, and tape them together to make new melodies. The experiment had almost worked — until tape got tangled and stuck to the inside of the piano, and had to be cleaned out before it would play again. Her parents had been pretty angry with her for destroying antique property. Had that piano been a gift from her Uncle Jack? Perish the thought. Uncle Jack’s spirit — wherever it was — was not in her mother’s apartment. Absolutely not. And whatever had happened tonight, Josepha did not want to know about it. All she could remember was that she had dozed off for what must have been less than ten minutes, and whatever Tim Allen had said or done, some sort of parlor trick she supposed, was reprehensible, as far as Josepha was concerned. How could her mother be so utterly gullible? She would really like to give her a piece of her mind in the morning. And yet, there was that awful piano roaring away. No, it had to be in one of the neighbor’s apartments. Josepha would ask her mother about it in the morning. But why would anybody be playing a player piano at two in the morning? That is what the alarm clock by her bed said it was, and she truly wished she was asleep.

She scrunched around under the quilts, almost afraid to close her eyes, for if she did fall asleep, she was so weary, she was afraid she would oversleep in the morning. Maybe taking the day off — or even just half the day wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Her mother greeted her in the kitchen with a bowl of oatmeal, a plate of scrambled eggs, and a naval orange, peeled and segmented. “You need a good warm breakfast before you go to work. Though judging by the condition of the roads out there, I wonder if anyone is going in at all this morning. I heard on the radio that schools are closed, and a lot of other places too. Maybe you should wait till the storm lets up before you go anywhere.”

Josepha could see through the window that the man next door was shoveling the back sidewalk to the parking lot. “Mother, does anyone around here have a player piano?”

“Not that I know of. I still have the one we used to own, down in the cellar. Since your dad died, I haven’t wanted to do much with those old things of his.”

“He had quite a collection of stuff, didn’t he?”

“The gramophone is still down there, and the penny-farthing bicycle.”

“Yeah, I remember he tried to get me on it once. I always liked riding a bicycle — but that?”

“Your father acted like a little boy sometimes.. But I really want you to stay home today.”

“I’m going to call in to see what’s happening before I make up my mind on that.”

“I can’t understand it. You and Jack are so different. Why would he choose to speak through you?”

“Mother, I just fell asleep last night. I was so tired that as soon as I sat down in that chair, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.”
“Jack was speaking through you.”

“He was not! It was a parlor trick. It had to be.”

“I saw and I heard what happened, Josepha.”

“Tim Allen was playing games with you and Loretta, and I am really angry that I am at all involved with this.”

Louise stood up and stooped to kiss the top of her daughter’s head, as she gathered the dishes to take out to the kitchen. “You know, honey, we need to explore this further, for your own sake, you should learn how to control this.”

“Mom, there’s nothing to control. I fell asleep at the table.”

“It was more than that, dear.”

“Well, I hate to eat and run, but I’ve really got to go.”

She called her boss on her cell phone as she headed down the highway back to her apartment. “Hello, Rudy? I’m going to be about twenty minutes late.”

The side streets were still snowed in, but the main roads were plowed and sanded, and when she turned on the radio the weather announcer was predicting that the storm would be over by nightfall. Rudy told her not to worry, that he would be late this morning himself.

“The fact that you’re facing Federal charges has me really rattled.”

Yeah, well, I should have seen it coming. I did see it coming and I mace a conscious decision to continue what I have been doing, because it is the right thing to do.”

“We do what we believe is right.”

That was one thing about Rudy. He stood up for what he believed in. Sometimes he had to deal with some fairly odious characters as a criminal lawyer, but he …

She clicked off her phone and parked the car in her driveway, sat back and took a deep breath before getting out. Come to think of it, when she was in college, she’d awakened from a longish nap to find her dorm mates giggling hysterically. “All right — let me in on the joke. What is it?” she had demanded almost before they know she was awake. They had burst out laughing even harder at the sound of her voice. Josepha sat up and rubbed her eyes, trying to get her bearings. “Explain to me what happened.”

“It’s you. You talk in your sleep!”

“So?” Josepha was unimpressed.

“I mean you really talk in your sleep!”

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