Auspicious Tidings

Just received word today that I’ve been taken on as a paid reviewer by BookBrowse. Whereas before I was giving the milk away free, now I am a hired cow. Er. Really shouldn’t call myself a cow. Whereas I was milking the cow gratis, now I’m a hired hand. Better. Yes. The money I’ll manage to pull in from the wise, good people at BookBrowse won’t pay the rent, but it will take care of the monthly bill for membership down at the Y. Have you noticed that the YMCA is just the Y now? It’s a semantic travesty. YMCA meant Young Men’s Christian Association, so Y is just, what, Young? I’ll be down at the Young later on the rowing machine. It’s nonsense.
 
BookBrowse had me read quite a long document before signing off on their Reviewer Agreement Form. There were detailed directions on how to write the kind of review they desire for their website. Amid their various strenuous suggestions was the following adaptation of _Elements of Style_ by Strunk and White:
 

Elementary Principles of Composition 

 
Choose a suitable design and hold to it 
 
Effective writing must closely follow the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which the thoughts occur. Determine the shape of your review before beginning, then flesh out that framework with your ideas.
 
Make the paragraph the unit of composition. 
 
As a rule, begin each with a sentence that introduces the topic or direction of the paragraph, or that eases the transition between paragraphs. 
 
Use the active voice. The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive. 
 
Put statements in positive form. 
 
Make definite assertions. Avoid noncommittal language. 
 
Use definite, specific, concrete language. 
 
Prefer the definite to the vague, the specific to the general, and the concrete to the abstract. 
 
Omit needless words. 
 
Avoid trite formulations like owing to the fact that and the question as to whether. 
 
When possible, combine multiple, wordy sentences into one concise one.
 
Avoid a succession of loose sentences. 
 
Each sentence should follow naturally from the preceding sentence, and each should advance your argument. 
 
 
I like the pithy brevity of “Omit needless words.” I shall apply Occam’s Razor to my reviews, keeping to the simple. But good heavens what are “loose sentences”? Sounds like they might be wont to lift their skirts after a few sips of wine. 
 
Seriously, though, I take the second admonition in this list fully to heart. Having recently written a lengthy volume of narrative nonfiction which had some structure, but admittedly flowed more stream-of-consciousness style, I know the dangers of just putting down one thought after another as they pop into one’s head. Far better to erect a preconceived framework and then go about fleshing it out. Kinder to the reader, really, than just following the wanton turnings of the mind. 
 
I’m emboldened by the fact that I’ll be writing for the literate to give myself permission to be a little highbrow. I’ve heard it said that it’s prudent to write to about an eighth-grade level, for example when writing the news. But I’m writing about books for book-lovers. Surely I can permit myself some license to be sententious. And to be frank, it’s a great relief to me to let er rip a bit. So seldom does one get the chance to drop weighty words and erudite turns of phrase into the day-to-day mix of conversation.
 
I’m put in mind of a scene from the the Terry Gilliam picture Time Bandits when the little people take a stooped old orgre by the limbs and stretch him until his bones crack back into place, upon which he roars in glee. I think I’ll roar a bit in my reviews for BookBrowse. See if anyone objects. Of course it’s key to keep in mind that the review is for the reader, as an indication of whether the text at hand is suitable to purchase. Don’t want to get so carried away with intellectual ogredom and fancy footwork that I deprive my clients of that simple service.
 
One great thing about the BookBrowse setup is that they will by and large be sending me print copies of the books I review. What a luxury. E-readers are fine and good, but there’s nothing quite like the feel of a book in the hands. I guess I’m a bit of a Luddite. If only I could bang my copy out on a well-oiled Underwood or some such. Clackety clack clack. She-ting! Maybe I’ll try outlining the reviews in longhand before I wordprocess them. That ought to help me conceptualize that structure Strunk and White were talking about, the framework on which to hang the particulars. Legal pads. That’s what I’ll need. Yellow ones. Ah, I’m going to enjoy this. 
 
A pastime by which to fill the hours comes not a bit too soon. I’ve been suffering somewhat from that embarassingly juvenile hangup - boredom. It feels so plain thankless to be bored. Surrounded by miracles and opportunities and yet unable to muster the attentiveness and strength of will to appreciate and take advantage of them. I disgust myself when I’m bored… but that just feeds the downward spiral. 
 
I knew I was pulling up out of a long spell of doldrums when I wrote so steadily, producing the manuscript that became my recent book. And when I needed reviews for my book and decided that the best way to manifest them was to set about writing some myself, I knew I was onto something powerful. This new situation of being paid to write them just cinches the deal. I’m on to a new phase - one with less marked avolition and anhedonia. Is it an idle mind or idle hands that are said to be the devil’s playground? Idleness, at any rate. It will be wholesome to be busy.
 
And busy I will be. My coursework toward an accounting degree begins next week. That will be demanding in other ways. Reading and writing should round me out nicely. Man cannot live by figure-juggling alone. For a precarious few days, back when I was transferring credits from my first degree to slot into this new one, I thought that the educational powers that be were going to make me take Composition again - a course which I taught while in grad school. That would have been trying. Sent back to the drawing board in my very bailiwick. But my advisor and I got that misunderstanding sorted out and I’ll not have to weather that.
 
Managerial Accounting and Microcomputing, with book reviews on the side. No, I doubt I’ll be bored much. Constant quizzes and tests, new information to parse and retain. Very good for the aging brain. We’ll just see how my ego holds up, what with being the old fogey in the room. My classmates will be fresh out of high school, some of them, and here I am pushing forty. I’ll have to make a concerted effort to get down to the Y fairly often. The Y. Phaw. Applesauce.
 
Well, I suppose that’s enough celebration of today’s good news. As a near-parting thought, it is utterly absurd that with this post I have started yet another blog. Free blogs are like credit cards with no annual fee to me - I just can’t see why not to accept them. But the number of blogs and sites I’ve got going now is ludicrous. I’ll not list them. Suffice it to say that they are legion. 
 
The reviews I write for BookBrowse will become their property. The rule is that I’ll be able to post abbreviated versions as long as I include the site’s logo and link. But I’ll still have other reviews to post on my many webpages. I have a modest little To Be Read list of free reviews to write too. Even strayed from my genre-preferences and took on some urban dystopia style stuff for one guy who queried me. Yes, keep an eye out for various and sundry writing about books from me. 

My New Gig

Subject: Auspicious Tidings By: Dawn Alice Date: 01/13/2013

Congratulations for landing yourself this new gig. Yes, it is wholesome to be busy, and no, you should not call yourself a cow!
Have fun at the 'Y'.
Dawn Alice

Subject: Your paid review job. By: Francene Stanley Date: 01/12/2013

I read through the guidelines for your review job with interest, being an author myself. Some of the sentences make no sense to me, but you seem bright and aware of what's required. And young! Forty is 'old'? Since when? You're in your prime. I admire all the new interests and commitments you've undertaken.

Subject: Re: Your paid review job. By: steve Date: 01/13/2013

wonderful blog checkout my blog at
http://definingwords.blogspot.com/2012/08/romantic-words.html
feel free to leave a comment

Subject: Congratulations By: Retha Groenewald Date: 01/12/2013

Congratulations.
Regarding your post below about Triberr. I would love to know how it actually works.

Subject: Re: Congratulations By: Uttley Date: 01/13/2013

In Triberr, you join small groups (tribes), then in the Tribal Stream, you see when your tribemates post on their blogs, and if you like their post, you can tweet it. That's about it. It's neat, though.

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Chasing down some of the swift buttons on the sidebar of a fellow blogger's page, I came across an intriguing concept site called Triberr. Right now, I'm just sort of playing with it -- getting a feel for its slight bugginess and yet very promising nature. I fed it the RSS feed from this blog, which it then asked me if I wanted to post to the various 'tribes' I've followed there (little groups about lots of topics -- I really quickly found one for self-published authors...), so this post is a kind of test-shot over the bow so to speak, to see if content here pops up over there.

I've gone ahead and plugged and chugged my Facebook and Twitter into Triberr. We'll see how that pans out. If I'm understanding the idea correctly, it looks like aside from neat forum-type small group discussions, I'll be a party to the blog posts of my tribemates, and will have the option to pass them on through my own social media channels. That sounds kind of fun.

So yeah, any avid social networkers who might come across this post, why not take a look at Triberr? Tell em Uttley sent ya. ;)

Triberr

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I was just on LibraryThing receiving the list of winners of a 5-copy giveway of The Boon I did this past week. The winners were from four different countries. LibraryThing is so cool. But while I was looking at the page for The Boon, I noticed off in the right margin a list of links to purchase the book, and saw, right under Amazon, a site called AbeBooks.com. Never having heard of AbeBooks, I clicked the link... and was redirected to a page where my book is being sold for $35.12! Mind you, on Amazon, I set the price at $11.99, of which I net about $.75 per book sold. This is a labor of love for me, hoping to offer helpful, wholesome words to fellow-sufferers, to provide some understanding of this really pretty common but oft-misunderstood disorder, and to do my little part to fight the negative stigma associated with it. Imagine my dismay, then, to see someone (someone called Revaluation Books, servicing "Exeter, DEV, and the United Kingdom") offering the book at a whopping $23 markup! Unconscionable! As I've said elsewhere, I'll make a SmashWords download of this book available free of charge to anyone who will commit to writing a little review upon reading it for posting on Amazon, SmashWords, and a couple of other booksites like LibraryThing and Goodreads. A $23 markup! Can you believe it? What an epic ripoff! Hope nobody goes for it. So anyway, what do you say? Want to read and review? Just contact me here or at mruttleysz at gmail dot com. 

Outrageous Markup

Subject: New follower By: Diane Date: 01/11/2013

Im a new follower on Networked Blogs!

Subject: Re: New follower By: Uttley Date: 01/12/2013

Right on, thanks. I've got a long way to go to reach my goal number of followers!

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Breaking News! My review of Kelly Oxford's upcoming book Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar was picked up as a feature on Edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com and came to the attention of Oxford herself... and she tweeted a link to one of my pages. This woman has 430,000 followers on Twitter. I wonder how many of them will be visiting my page in the next few days! I'm riding on the coattails of fame... It is to be hoped that my book The Boon might reach a few new readers. Have you ever had a brush with fame? Do tell...

 

Brushes with Fame

Subject: fame By: Denys Kelley Date: 01/10/2013

How exciting for you! Let's all happy dance! whoo woo

Subject: Re: fame By: Eugene Uttley Date: 01/11/2013

Haha Denys -- as a matter of fact I might have done a few happy jiggy steps when I saw my 17,000 hits on the site stats page just now. It's a thrill to have had a review I wrote be so widely read! So how about you? Any brushes with fame?

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I started out this blog with a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. What I'd like to share now is a scene from the 1996 movie about the artist (Basquiat). As the scene opens, you can hear the closing strains of a wonderful song by The Pogues -- "Summer in Siam" -- and Jeffrey Wright and Benicio del Torro are walking down the street in NYC. Wright (as Basquiat) tells a fable about a boy locked in a tower. The story is touching and profound. Here's the link to the scene. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! (Warning - at the end of the scene, Wright drops the f-bomb...)

 

 

The Prince in the Tower

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As I prepare to attend the initial courses toward my second degree, I'm put in mind of a couple of the great teachers in my life.

Starting when I was in first grade, I wrote stories. They were largely grisly tales in which most everybody died. My scribbling caught the attention of a brilliant woman named Nonnie Robison, who taught the second grade. She praised me for my creativity and took the time to bind my looseleaf pages into little books. "What you need now," she told me, "is an illustrator!" She looked around and found a kid with a good hand for drawing, paired us up and got us producing little books like mad. She'd laminate them and hole-punch them and tie them off with yarn. Her attentions and encouragement were manna to me, and helped to foster my lifelong love of books and of writing.

Mrs. Robison would occasionally help me come up with titles for my books. I remember in particular one of her contributions, because it taught me about how a word can be used to convey two meanings at once. I had a story about a girl named Sally who turned off her usual path to school and headed down an alley (where she came to a grim demise). Mrs. Robison said, "I know what we'll call this one! Sally in the Alley! Because a 'sally' can mean a 'jaunt' or 'trip off the beaten track'. And also it's the main character's name... perfect!"

It seems like a simple concept, but to me as an aspiring writer in the first grade, the idea that a word could be used in two ways at once was groundbreaking and inspiring. Mrs. Robison had taught me the art of the pun, and then some. From that point on, my stories were full of pun-ishment.

Another memorable teacher in my life was my mentoring professor when I taught Composition in grad school. He was an intensely intelligent man named Mark Box. After observing my teaching for the first time, he said, "You seem to have a natural grasp of the... theatrical elements of teaching. Where to stand and how to make a point interesting, that sort of thing. Now we just need to work on your organizational skills." He guided me into the practice of writing on the board before every class the key points of the day's lesson, as well as what work was coming due in the near future. This proved a very effective way to keep my students on track, and to keep me from straying too far from my lesson plan. In a later class, Mr. Box taught me quite a bit about sentence structure. I particularly remember him hipping me to the concept of chiasmus. Chiasmus occurs when the second part of a sentence or expression is the first part reversed. Here are a few examples I like:

"Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." (Samuel Johnson)

"I had a teacher who used to say good fiction's job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." (David Foster Wallace)

"My job is not to represent Washington to you, but to represent you to Washington." (Barack Obama)
 
I can only hope as I enter next week into my new course of study that I will find in my new teachers a little of the inspiration of Mrs. Robison and the practical and syntactical guidance of Mr. Box.
 

 

 
 
 

Early Influences

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Seems I'd better start taking some of these writing prompts I'm getting in my inbox from the good people at the Ultimate Blog Challenge, else there's no way I'll manage to work up 30 posts this month. 

One suggestion lately was to surf infographics, find one I like and share it.

I looked at a neat site -- http://infographics.alltop.com/ -- and found one which details some intriguing possibilities about the future.

I especially like the one about an Artificial Intelligence gaining the status of a corporation. Not that that would be a good thing, necessarily, but just the thought of it -- an offspring of human ingenuity, sentient to some degree, and possessing corporate citizenship... On whether this is likely at all, I 'll say that I recently saw a good documentary called Being in the World in which it was explained that the reason the promise of A.I. hasn't yet been realized is, simply put, because computers don't "give a damn" -- which I understand to mean that they don't value one thing over another, don't have preferences and internal motivation as such. So what do you think? Will we one day soon surmount this shortcoming and produce machines which approach true sentience? If so, would it be a dream come true or a nightmare?

Just a reminder -- you should be able to enlarge the graphic by pressing control-+...

A.I.

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Book Blogs and Freebies

01/05/2013 23:50

The ongoing saga of seeking free reviews for my book The Boon leads me to some interesting places.

This evening I began at BookBlogs, a very active site full of authors and reviewers. There, I found a link to Fyrefly's Book Blog, which hosts a customizedGoogleSearch of book bloggers. Chasing down some leads there, I found this:

It's the Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop. It includes links to 195 blogs hosting book giveaways this week. I've been filling out Rafflecopter forms like crazy, and finding some potential reviewers in the process.

Time is short. Hope you see this soon. Check it out!

 

Book Blogs & Freebies

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Judging a Book by its (Lack of a) Cover

Time to get down to the real business of a personal blog - ranting.

This week, I went down to the college bookstore and purchased the outrageously expensive texts for my classes, which are beginning in a week or so.

Much to my dismay, the book for my Managerial Accounting class  - an $160 investment - turned out not to be a book at all, but a tall stack of hole-punched pages. Though based on this book, this stack of glossy paper (for which I had to buy my own 3-ring binder) has absolutely no resale value. One would think that for $160, the publisher could afford to throw in at least a cheap spiral binding. That's how my other textbook, for a microcomputing class, is bound. It was also $160, but at least I'll be able to recoup a bit of that by reselling once the class is finished.

 

Coverless

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I learned from some of the 1000 other bloggers participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge this month about the idea of choosing one word for inspiration throughout this year. There's a site about this concept, and a very cool lady named Melanie who on her blog offers to compose a button using the word one chooses. I wrote to tell her I had chosen "Awaken", and in no time at all she sent me this powerful image. I'll be very interested to see how the meaning of this word evolves for me throughout the course of 2013.

Awaken

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Enso is the Japanese word for circle. By this Zen Buddhist enso is symbolized a moment in which the mind does not interfere with the creative power of the spirit.

Enso

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A painting, if you'll believe it, by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Usually, his work is so busy and iconoclastic. I think he let his mind rest on this one. It reminds me to some extent of Buddhist art, in which the circle can mean bliss. Also of course it makes me think of the sun. Whether rising, setting, or at high noon I cannot say.

Basquiat

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Meester's bookshelf: reviewed

the boon thoughts of a schizophrenic in remission
5 of 5 stars true
Hi - Eugene Uttley here.Five years ago, while teaching English as a Second Language in Korea, I developed late onset schizophrenia. The first signs of schizophrenia usually manifest in one's teenage years or early twenties. My case, o...
tagged: reviewed
Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God
4 of 5 stars true
In elaborating his title metaphor, drawn from Celtic Christian origins, Batterson is quick to point out the subtle yet crucial difference between a Wild Goose chase (a pointless endeavor) and the act of chasing the Wild Goose, by which h...
tagged: reviewed

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