Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shards of Honor— the audio book

One of the first books I read when I decided to abandon the best seller lists, the books perched on those little display stands at the library, and recommendations from well meaning friends and family was Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor. I have devoted an earlier entry to it, and have mentioned it in other posts as well. Still, it is difficult for me to explain how good this novel is, both as a stand alone, and as the basis for a long-running series. Although I am not a fan of audio books, I plan to give this one a try.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

After the Boom

One of my favorite collections of stories, from my youth, is entitled The Heart of a Dog. Albert Payson Terhune authored the collection, first published in 1924, along with many other works, some of which are still in print. I read those dog stories, written by a dog lover extraordinaire, and reread them, along with other classics, at an impressionable time, so some of the author’s ideas are integrated into my perspective on life. The story, “Youth Will Be Served” is about the old champion dog, being evaluated by a veteran dog show judge, as he stands against the finest dog of the new generation. The judge, once confident that the long-standing champion could never be surpassed, examines the champ, admiring the perfection of his lines. As a judge, he must be fair, so he compares him to the young dog, seeing that the youngster has a broader chest, a finer coat, and so forth. Although his heart is with the old champion, in despair, he awards the blue ribbon to the younger dog, uttering the title phrase, “Youth will be served.”

As it is with the dog and the dog show judge, so it is with all generations. I was born in the midst of the “baby boom” and my outlook has been shaped by that. The boomer generation took on the world in the sixties, questioning accepted morals and mores. In the seventies, they grew up, put their educations to work, and had two and a half children, on average. Their parents had come from larger families, but the boomers wanted to give more and yet have more, so they begat fewer children, albeit giving them much more stuff. In the eighties and nineties, these boomers matured, driving BMWs or Hondas instead of Caddies or Chevies, working, spending, saving less than earlier generations, but investing those savings with unbridled confidence, all while caring for aging parents and sending the next generation to college.

Now those boomers are beginning to retire, and the ones still at work are facing changing circumstances. Oh, some boomers adapt, texting and twittering, and socializing via facebook, sans capital letters and conventional spelling, but others are the new dinosaurs. Accepted standards pass away, a new generation takes charge, and those who are 45+ face the challenges of layoffs, a crippled financial system, and a bursting-bubble housing market, making their investments worth far less than they cost. Boomers out of work is the subject of a recent New York Times article, which reveals that these experienced, talented workers, once laid off, are passed over in favor of younger folks. "Youth will be served," as Terhune observed some 85 years ago, and our society will surely be changed after the boom fades away.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mama's Favorite Season

All of my life, I have enjoyed spring, but I've never loved it the way Mama did. Perhaps it was growing up on a farm, watching crops go in, as well as watching nature wake up from winter hibernation. Maybe it was that she did not have allergies, not the way hubby and I do. Mama was not much of gardener, not until her empty nest years, which were cut short by cancer. She did have beautiful azaleas, planted in a circle around an oak tree that was over a hundred years old, and the driveway was defined by huge clumps of jonquils and thrift. In other spots, she had planted various roses, with hydrangeas and other staples of southern flower gardens.

The road where I live now was once one of the prettiest in our small southern town. Some of the woods have given way to mini-mansions on half acre lots, surrounded by some uber-ugly fencing, and other folks have pulled up older plants which no doubt suffered in recent droughts. Still there are enough dogwoods and azaleas to remind me that spring is a beautiful time of year.

Easter moves about the calendar according to some arcane rules that few people bother to learn. I do have clear memories of Mama teaching me about the legend associated with the unique dogwood blossom. Daddy always cut the grass the day before Easter, whether it needed it or not, just to "make it easier to find those eggs." Mama and Daddy made finding the eggs a simple, fun-filled event. However, if we had an egg hunt at the Dodd's, my older male cousins put eggs in all sorts of weird places, including the forks of high trees. Only the brave got all the eggs in Nanny Dodd's backyard.

One of my favorite photographs of Mama was made on her last Easter, bending her six-foot frame over to guide my daughter, not quite two years old, to find eggs, poorly hidden among those flowers in her front yard.

Ah, yes, spring has come to Georgia, with thunder, lightning, hail, and a river of yellow pollen running down the driveway. My neighbor has a glorious row of multicolored azaleas lining her driveway, and I have a large, native dogwood in bloom. Once again, it is mama's favorite season, and I love to take in all the natural beauty. Hubby, give me another Claratin, because I just can't stay inside.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Self Publishing Success

The stigma still exists, but CNN just published an article on the continuing rise in self publishing. One of my author-friends has mentioned that very little fiction is being accepted by publishers (large or small) due to economic woes. That just makes print on demand and e-publishing more attractive than ever. As this article points out, conventional publishing wastes resources and frustrates writers. And, as more college educated, experienced people are out of work, they can put their time into writing.

I was especially taken with the success of Lisa Genova's Still Alice, which she self-published prior to being offered a contract with one of the big six. Take a look at the article for details about this author's journey from rejection to best seller, with a little help from a print on demand publisher.

While I have not found the success that some authors have found via POD, publishing The Gift Horse did give me plenty of opportunities to interact with readers, book sales in the hundreds, and some good reviews, including one from the Midwest Book Review.

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Friday, April 03, 2009


I'm still wading through my latest "big book," The Complete Ivory, as Theodora mulls over becoming married to her love interest, Ran Cormelleon. The world of Ivory is well thought out, the plot moves, but there is not enough suspense to make me stay up at night; however, I am enjoying the trilogy. Unfortunately, I have not had a lot of time to read of late.

This afternoon, I spent about three hours wading through another morass— figuring out medical claims for hubby's flexible spending account. After the folks at SHPS insisted that they had to have certain documentation for the IRS, I printed out sixty plus pages of EOB's, xeroxed eight charge receipts, three pages of medical center statements, and wrote them a check for three cents. Yep, there was a three cent error made by a medical provider, and they by gosh wanted to be reimbursed for it. The envelope is ready to go, and it is not quite as thick as the manuscript for a novel. I also wrote a letter for hubby to send to a local hospital, which had overcharged him. (And no, I don't feel punished by God, and anyone in America who likes the IRS needs a shrink.) Actually, I didn't say a cross word, which hubby thought was quite remarkable, as he signed three forms and the letter. No doubt reading over all this will keep a couple of folks employed for several hours, and it will take a couple of dollars to mail it, so I feel pretty good about stimulating the economy.

While reading the news this afternoon, I saw an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about a previous topic, the removal of child friendly motorcycles from dealerships across our nanny-state. There is quite a bit of unsold inventory, and customers sitting on their cash, due to this government boondoggle.

And lastly, I'll share another timely quote:

"Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others."

—Ayn Rand

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