Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Civility Movement: Part One

Good evening, Castaways.

I trust your Holiday season is finding you in receipt of a thousand good things.

Myself, I have been blessed.

In starting the Civility Movement, we must realize that civility must start with us. We ourselves must 
take upon our own shoulders the burden of living at peace with our brothers and sisters.

I was once involved in a discussion with someone who was spewing some vitriol against another person with whom they disagreed. The other person wasn't even there to defend themselves, but that didn't stop this person from accusing them of all kinds of hateful; motives, calling them name after horrible name.

When I reminded them that it seemed odd for the "Party of Tolerance" to be using such inflammatory language against another, they responded with "I have no tolerance for the intolerant."

I was stymied there. This person, otherwise kind, was giving themselves a free ride to be a blatant hypocrite, hiding behind clever prose to throw their hate grenades at someone they didn't even know. Guys, get real here. We're either going to get along or we're not. If you take tolerance seriously, then apply it to everyone, not just those with whom you agree.

To paraphrase The Wise One, "If you only love those who love you, what is that worth? Even Nazis and the KKK love those who love them. Love your enemies, and bless those who wrongfully use you." (Luke 6:27-36). Do you want to really be the better man (or woman?) Do you really want to prove you're on the side of right? Love that person who is behaving like an insufferable twit. Pour peace on them. You may find yourself diffusing the situation and making a new friend.

So Part One of restoring civility is to be one who makes peace. Speak from love. No, you don't have to plant a wet smooch on everyone you meet. No, you don't have to give up your responsibility to defend yourself and your family from evil. But you do have the responsibility to give someone the benefit of the doubt if they simply disagree with you.

This country's leaders have failed miserably in their responsibility to lead by example. Shame on them all. Shame on their hypocrisy. Shame on their rhetoric. Shame on their selfish power grabs, their lies and half-truths. Shame on their bickering and petty quarrels in public forums.

Let's allow ourselves to walk different paths from theirs. The time has come for us to be the leaders we need to be, to bring our country back together, to heal the wounds of the past and forge a new, unified nation. Even if we don't agree on everything, we can at least agree to disagree, and be at peace with each other. It's the least we owe our countrymen.

Let other nations rage. Let them crumble if they must. Let us rise above worthless debates over moot points. Let us debate with thoughtful point-counterpoint the issues that try to divide, and let us overcome strife with peace.

We have to start somewhere. Let's start with recognizing that each and every one of us is a creation of a God who values no one above another. And you and I do not have the right to belittle anyone created of God. That's an insult to Him who made that other person, regardless of whether you think they're a jackwagon.

Can we all get along? I believe so.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas!

It seems fitting that we observe the coming anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ

So it's to you all I wish a Merry Christmas (And a wonderful Hanukkah  to my Jewish friends).

When Linda and I were much younger, before our youngest was a gleam in his daddy's eye, we were in the midst of a deep financial trouble. It was enough just to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads, and if we weren't already getting a deal on the rent (our landlord was Linda's brother--it helps to have connections), we very well may not have had a place to live. But by God's grace and Wayne's mercy, we at least had that.

Anyway, in this particular year, we wondered how in the world we were going to get our children a little something. Gift-giving at Christmas to some extent is somewhat shallow, I know. We weren't looking to get the kids the latest video game console, or a big-screen TV or anything. We just wanted to give them something to unwrap on Christmas morning. That's pretty important for us. As it was, our "Christmas tree" was a sprig cut from my father-in-law's pine tree in his back yard, stuck in a coffee can filled with dirt to keep it from toppling from the coffee table. As I recall, it spilled over anyway, and we spent some time vacuuming dirt from the threadbare living room carpet.

No. Material things weren't what we were about. But celebrating Christmas to us is celebrating the greatest gift God bestowed to us, and that was His very own son.

So Christmas eve came and went in our little house. Our oldest was eight, our daughters were three years and three months respectively. I don't even remember what we had bought for the kiddos, but it wasn't much. I do remember feeling like a failure as a provider for my household, in spite of the fact that Linda was working as well. It's my responsibility after all to make sure my family's needs are met. The buck stops with Dad.

The sun came up bright and clear on that snowy Christmas morn, and we prepared to head over to the in-laws to celebrate with the larger clan. I was assuaged a little by the knowledge that Grandma and Grandpa H. would be sure to have little somethings for the kidlets to open.

I opened the front door to clear the walk to the car and stopped short, bewildered. Someone had left a large black bag of garbage on our doorstep sometime in the night. I muttered a word or two about the neighborhood teens, some of whom were pretty unsavorable. It was just like them to leave us this kind of insult.

I grabbed the top of the bag to drag it out to the curb, and noticed it was lighter than I expected. Also, there were some corners that stuck out at odd angles. So instead of chucking it out, I brought it inside.

Someone (I don't know who, to this day) had decided to bless us. The bag was full (I did say "big bag," right? Like, an industrial-sized bag) to the top with gifts for our three children. The cards were all from Santa Claus. The girls got dolls, and our son got an art set, and there was more than I can recount. But rest assured, Linda and I spent some time in tears thanking whatever mysterious Santa had left for us. And it seemed like the kids knew something special had happened, because they appreciated those gifts a little more, and not because of their monetary value. The girls wore those dolls out, and every scrap of paper in that art set was covered in a joyous riot of color betraying the enthusiasm of a kid who knew what he had.

We have had others bless us in so many ways through the skinniest of our times, and we are thankful for each and every blessing we receive. But that Christmas stands out to me as one of the most blessed we've ever had.

I wish for all of you the same joy, the same wonder, the same feeling of surprise as we felt on the day.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and may your new year bring you so many blessings you have to give some away. And if you can, find a way to be a blessing to someone new.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Moment of Silence.

This week, I am declaring silence for the events in Connecticut. As you pass through, please think of the little ones who never went home. If you must comment, refrain from all political statements.

Thank you for understanding.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Announcing: Becoming NADIA now in Print!

And good evening, fellow Castaways!

Tonight, I would like to resort to some shameless self-promotion. My debut novel, Becoming NADIA, is now available in both print and eBook formats from my publisher, MuseItUp Publishing. See my "Books" tab at the top of this page for the links.

I wanted to tell a story that not only had action and romance, but one that made my readers think without being "preachy" or condescending. I hate books that tell me what I'm supposed to think. I believe good literature asks questions and allows the reader to think about the answers. So it was important that I share some truth in a way that simply asks the reader to think about something they maybe haven't before.

So anyway, I felt it appropriate to touch base with the first novel in my NADIA Project series, to announce the print release and introduce my debut work to those newcomers to my page who may not have seen her before.

With a nod to Delilah K. Stephans, my cover artist, and my capable editors Fiona Young-Brown and Greta Gunselman. Thank you, ladies. Your hard work has enabled me to win Best Thriller honors at EPICon 2012. And of course, special thanks to Lea Schizas, our editor-in-chief at MuseItUp for making this all possible for us.

“What’s one more little white lie?”

There's only one thing that pretty, popular TV reporter Nadia Velasquez is missing: her memory from before the explosion that killed everyone else in the room, including the President of Nigeria. But from the moment she meets FBI agent Jon Daniels, all hell breaks loose. Friends turn into deadly enemies overnight, and no one can be truly trusted.

When Jon and Nadia investigate further, they discover the living terror that is the truth behind Nadia's existence, a truth that could mean the death of millions.

And here's a fresh excerpt (you can see more at our buy page:

Jon was so wrapped up in his grief he never heard the approach of the helicopter echoing off the sides of the cliffs. When it zoomed over the Hummer, he jumped. He rubbed his eyes clear and looked out his windshield as it swooped up and swung around, a huge dragonfly buzzing back down the roadbed cut through the badlands. His heart slammed inside his chest like a hammer as he jerked the Hummer into gear and took off.
The helicopter zoomed over and came at him again, the rotor blades seeming to come within inches of the cliff on his right. Lower and lower it came. A burst of gunfire erupted from the right side. Jon caught the image of a man leaning out the side door with an automatic weapon as it zoomed closer. The stream of bullets from the fusillade struck the pavement in front of him as he swung the Hummer closer to the base of the cliff. He goosed the accelerator, looking for some way off the road as the chopper slipped by overhead. Glancing to his left, he saw only a drop-off to the bottom of rocky chasm. The cliff base on his right rolled up in a sheer climb of fifty feet and more. There was nowhere to go.
A movement in his rearview mirror told him the helicopter was coming back again. He could hear the roar of the rotors as it swooped down yet once more, heard the shots from the gunner in the side door as pieces of asphalt pinged off the side of his vehicle. On he raced, swerving and dodging in the narrow track of roadway.
There, on the right, an opening! The cliff wall dropped down to a low, sloping berm about five feet high. Jon stomped on the brake, swung the wheel to the right, and then back left, counter-steering to control the sideways skid. Then he goosed the pedal hard, heading up over the bank and off into the badlands. He hoped he could lose his pursuers in a canyon or draw. He took the first turn he came to and led the chase up into the hills as fast as he could drive. Nevertheless, the chopper stayed with him all the way. Bullets panged off the rock wall next to the Hummer, spraying chips against the passenger side of the vehicle. Jon stayed as close to the wall as he could, trying to limit the helicopter's avenues of approach as much as he could.
He ducked into a narrow canyon just at it flew by yet another time. The Hummer went over the rim of the canyon at over fifty miles per hour, sailing out and down the slope. It landed hard halfway down and bounced twice, nearly toppling before settling back in, driving between the stone walls of the Wyoming badlands. He had to slow down here to negotiate around the larger rocks strewn about the sandy floor.
The helicopter passed overhead again, but instead of homing directly in on him like before, it passed as a blur across the top of the canyon several hundred meters in front of him.
The stone walls closed in yet again, and the canyon became a ravine with overhanging cliffs on both sides that often overlapped over the Hummer, obscuring Jon's view of the sky.
He doubled back under one of the deeper overhangs and stopped the Hummer. His hands shook as he waited with his window rolled down, straining to hear the sound of the rotors. He heard the chopper pass over twice more, each pass farther away, and then fade off, and then it was quiet.
Jon got out and opened the back door. He reached into the back seat and pulled out his weapons, strapping on the pistol and loading magazines for the carbine. He carefully loaded and checked each, scurried farther back under cover of the rocky overhang.
The air was thin at that altitude, and his breathing was labored as he tried to calm his pounding heart. He waited several more minutes, hearing nothing but the wind blowing down the ravine, so he rose and walked out to the edge of the shadows, ears straining.
A small sound came from above and a pebble dropped into the sand under the edge of the overhang. He looked up as he approached the edge of the shadow under the overhang, and that was when he heard a small pop from his left. He snapped his head around just as the sting in his neck registered in his mind, and he saw the man holding the small rifle advance toward him.
Jon tried to bring the carbine to bear, but it was too heavy to lift. He dropped it and reached for the pistol, but his arm seemed weighed down by an immense burden. His fingers fumbled with the holster, but kept missing the clasp. Images in his vision began to dance in erratic, shifting patterns and he fell. Blackness swarmed over his mind as he heard a man talking and an answer crackled back on a radio.
* * * *
When Jon opened his eyes again he was strapped own on a gurney in a helicopter. The metallic, copper taste of adrenaline mixed with the salty warm flavor of blood in his mouth. He must have hit pretty hard when he fell. His abdomen felt like someone had worked him over with a baseball bat. He tried to move his arms but they were strapped down, too. He heard voices above the beat of the helicopter's blades and the whine of the turbine engine, but could understand nothing. He tried to speak. A needle slipped into his neck, and a warm, sluggish feeling washed over his brain. He heard someone say, "Dude, like you didn't have to zap him again, he's tied down." and the light began to fade.
Nadia, don't let them take you. The blackness closed back around him.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Author Highlight: Chrystalla Thoma

Fellow Castaways, this week I  am going to take a break from the latest fol-de-rol of outspoken me-ness and shift the focus to another fellow author. Partly, because I've spent the entire week flat on my back from flu and therefore have nothing witty or deep to say about the world at large, and partly because of the merits of a certain author's body of work.

I met her on line at our common critique site, where we proceeded to chew each other's work with enthusiastic glee, and she's helped me polish at least two of my novels to an awesome sheen. One thing that surprised me was her fluid (and fluent) command of English, it being not her first, nor even second, language. To my knowledge, she operates, reads, writes, and translates between Greek, Spanish, English, and German, with probably a couple others thrown in for good measure, and my hope is that she stops by to tell us all exactly how many languages she does command.

But the biggest and most pleasant surprise of combing through Chrys' work was the worlds she creates and in which she moves her characters. Ladies and gentlemen (you, too, Randall), I give you Chystalla Thoma, author of two novellas available through MuseItUp Publishing and several independent projects.

I will state here that this personal review is entirely unsolicited by Mrs. Thoma, who resides in Cypus with her husband. But in every one of her works that I read, she never fails to take me away to another world where no one is truly human, or where the ancient gods rise and struggle to once again claim sovereignty over humanity.

If you haven't read her Chronicles of Elei trilogy or her twin novellas Dioscuri and The Minotaur, let me just shine a little light on them.

Product DetailsRex Rising is Chrys' first independent novel, and it's definitely a "buy it NOW!" option. It's available in all formats (I buy mine from Smashwords) electronically, as well as in print, and begins the story of a young teen caught in a delicate balance between two powerful parasites, each of which could easily kill him, kept in check by the other. Elei's world is The Seven Islands, which could either be a natural chain or relics of a long-extinct, high-tech floating community. In either case, we are left to guess the origins of the world, but Chrystalla takes us on a ride through the scenery with chases, symbiotic relationships, cruel tyrranies, and one kid who can bring it all down with one shot, and I don't mean in any way you could possibly guess until just before it actually happens. That's what's so cool about this one. It's other-worldly in a way that would make Andre Norton sit up and say, "'Ay, 'oo's dis Thoma chick, anyway?" in a horrid Jersey accent.

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsThe series is played out in two sequential novels and a novella/prequel. I must confess I haven't finished these yet, because I'm still working on her twin works set in an alternative future based on the ancient Greek pantheon (of which I'm sure, as a Greek Cypriot, Chrys is somewhat an expert).
 Product DetailsProduct Details Dioscuri and The Minotaur  are both available at just about any online retailer, but they originate (like my own work) through MuseItUp Publishing. I first read Dioscuri  when I was critiquing it for Chrys, and I was amazed at the way she tells the story of Castor and Pollux in such a new light. It seems the Old Gods haven't really gone away. They've just been asleep, and now that they're awake, they're less than pleased with how mankind has cast them aside. How many ways can I say these stories rock? Anyone with even an inkling of interest in the ancient stories will certainly not regret having these in their libraries.

Anyway, I'm off to let Chrys know I've posted this (I think she'll be surprised--she's one of the most humble people I know) so feel free to ask her whatever REASONABLE questions you may (behave yourselves!), and enjoy reading her stuff. She has a lot more out there than what I've highlighted here.

Be blessed this week, guys, and I'll be back next week.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Restoring Civility

Okay, the election is over. The people who won are the people who won, agree or disagree.

In an earlier post, I bemoaned the loss of civil discourse in our political debates. It seems to be the fashion now, instead of exchanging ideas in vigorous discussion, we resort to belittling those who would disagree with us. After all, it's much easier to paint your opponent as a blithering idiot than it is to formulate a well-thought counterpoint.

It seems thinking for oneself has gone the way of the dodo, with everyone spouting the latest talking points from or Rush Limbaugh. That just makes it all the more rankling when one is called upon to actually respond on one's own, and has no good argument formulated on thought. So the mud starts flying: "You only say that because you want to leave women and children on their own. You just want dirty air and water! You don't care!!!I" Or even, "You bleeding heart liberals are all socialists. You just want to take from those who've earned it to give to some lazy slob who hasn't worked a day in his life! Bunch of tree-hugging freaks!!!"

Seriously, don't you see where all this name-calling and these generalities are damaging our culture? America is the greatest nation on Earth. One of the things that made it great was the reputation we've earned as "The Great Melting Pot." It doesn't mean everyone who comes here has to give up their individuality. On the contrary, America was founded on the power of the individual to carve his own destiny, and in his own style.

Sure, we have the right to say whatever we want. It's carved in stone, in our constitution (the rulebook of The United States, for those who aren't aware. Seriously, have you read your own rulebook? If not, why not?). Anyway, the constitution says we have the right to say whatever we want to, with no political repercussions. But with every right comes the responsibility to use it in a way that furthers civility. Read the part that says, "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility..." That "domestic tranquility" thing? You signed on to that by becoming a citizen of this nation, either by birth or by process.

I'll admit, our leaders haven't been doing a very good job of furthering that civility. Just one memory from the recent campaign should remind you how visceral and irresponsible it was, on both sides. It seems when one has nothing positive to say about oneself, the only remaining option is to paint one's opponent as the second coming of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Attila the Hun, all rolled into one, with an appetite for human blood on top for good measure. The press certainly didn't rise above the mud either, as truth always gives way to sensationalism for the sake of higher ratings. I mean, why let the facts get in the way of a perfectly good smear story? Am I the only one who thinks this way?

So where does civility, or domestic tranquility, come from? Is it the responsibility of our leaders? Surely, for this is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." It is, isn't it? One may hope. But that responsibility also extends to "we the people" as in US. WE the people are responsible for insuring domestic tranquility. You and me.

It has to start somewhere, too. Now, I'm not going to be one who points a finger at everyone else without taking my own example, as my close friends all can attest. We get along, even though I'm a conservative and some of them are liberals. I'm a straight man who loves his gay friends as much as everyone else. Just because we don't agree on some things doesn't mean we can't get along in the same country.

So I am going to start a movement. Let's call it The Civility Movement. That means we agree to stop calling each other names and start getting along in spite of our differences. It means we read our own rulebook, and agree to abide by it. It means we take it upon ourselves to "insure domestic tranquility" by actually offering thoughtful discussion instead of hateful labels and vitriol.

Can we do this? Who's in?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Divertissement: "The Watch"

This week is Thanksgiving in the USA. This year there's a lot for which to be thankful in the Keith household.

I reconnected with two of my late brother's children (well, they ain't children anymore, but still).

My first novel, Becoming NADIA, won Best Thriller at EPICon in San Antonio, and is coming to print before the end of the year.

My son's latest round of surgeries should be his last, God willing. Keeping our fingers crossed.

And the latest thing is the outcome of my colonoscopy/endoscopy: Clean. Almost.

Which brings me to my next point. My family history is rich and storied with cancer in various forms and types, which mandates me  being on a regular cycle of checkups and exams, because high risk is high risk, and not acknowledging that is just plain stupid.

I'm talking to you this week about scoping because it isn't just for high risk people like me. Plain and simple, colon cancer is the single most treatable cancer known. It grows slowly enough to head off in its earliest stages, and its survivability rate is very high these days, because the signs are so easy to catch in time.

If one takes the necessary steps.

My little sister died at age 46 from colon cancer. She didn't get scoped. I know the books all say you don't need to get checked before age 50, and that's true for the most part as long as you're not in a high risk group. I had little trouble getting my insurance company to cover my checks before I was 50, once I explained the risk and my family's story with that monster. Anyway, Cindy never got herself checked, and when she started having symptoms, it was already too late.

Let me say without reservation that there is a deal of suffering and humiliation (for me) in getting scoped. First off, there is that godawful "cleansing" you have to do the day before and the morning of the scope. Take these pills, take some more pills, take some more pills, and make sure you're within ten feet of a bathroom door. Thank God they knock my keister out before they come at me with that scope. I couldn't lay there awake while they're in there looking for lost miners or whatever it is they eventually turn up. I can tell you, that "five pounds of undigested red meat" the vegans go on about is simply nonexistent. The docs looked. It ain't there. So, red meat, look out. here I come.

As it was, my first check wasn't perfect, but it could have been worse. I had some polyps which were removed and tested negative. Same thing this time, as far as my colon was concerned. But my endoscopy turned up some abnormalities which required biopsies to be taken.

So yes, I was out like a light (propofol is my friend). AND, before they knocked me out, I did look to see they had two scopes set up, one for each end. Call me weird, but you know, I like to make sure, 'cause that would be... yeah.

Did I enjoy the experience? Not really. I lost two days of work, and I still have to go back and get another endoscope to follow up on the esophageal ulcers. But I'd rather suffer a little misery for a day or two than to suffer through months or years of torment while tumors eat me alive like they did my father, my sister, and my great-grandmother.

So now, let me say this: You are a fool if you don't take care of yourself. If you're over fifty years, get checked. And if you're high risk, get checked. This is one area over which you can take control. Don't let it get out of control before you decide to do something about it.

This week, I will be thankful for the blessings we've experienced this year, and watchful for that which would steal what is mine, including my health. You would do well to stay on watch as well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interview: Charity Martinez of 5Girls Book Reviews

The sky over the Shores is clear today. The walls of the beach cabana flap in the breeze coming off the ocean. The sherry in my glass is almost gone, the heady liqueur still honey-sweet on my tongue.

I stand and pack my notebook, pens, and the bottle into my messenger bag. Dinner waits at the cabin on the cliff. As I straighten, the bag over my shoulder, a new sound rises above the roar of the surf. A flurry of giggles floats down the beach.

Funny. I don't remember having a girls' slumber party any time recently.

Throwing aside the tent flap, I step into the sunlight, right into a freshly-spiked volleyball. I rub the sting away from my forehead and look to the source of the assault.

Not ten yards away, a skiff has been hauled up on the beach. Its five occupants are apologetic as they gather round to retrieve their missile for the next point.

Folks, this week I'm pleased to introduce Charity Martinez and her "junior staff." Together they make up 5Girls Book Reviews.

FULL DISCLOSURE TIME: I do have a review request pending with 5Girls. This interview is not an effort to garner a better review for my work. I fully expect an impartial and honest review when the time comes. I just thought this sounded like too good an interview to pass up. So here's my conversation with Charity:

Cyrus: What got you started doing book reviews?
Charity: I turned the dirty thirty and was thinking that I wanted to do more with my life and I love to read and want to share my love of books with others so I decided to start a book review blog. I think by someone having a review handy of a book, it helps decide on if you want to read it or not.

Cyrus:You have several “junior staff members” working with you. What kinds of books are each of you looking for?
Charity: I do have 4 “junior staffers” with me and they have my passion of reading.
Arianna is looking for books that are captivating to her either middle grade, Tween, or mom approved YA. Her favorite author is Rick Riordan and she loves any books that have to do with Greek mythology, dragons, the Romans. adventures, etc. She is more into the fantasy aspects of reading instead of the “girly” aspects. She also loves mysteries. She accepts books in Kindle and print format.
Angel is looking for books that are mysteries, ghost stories, and books that are “girly” in a sort. She does not enjoy the fantasy books like her sister does. She reads mainly MG books, Tween and a few mom approved YA books. She accepts books only in print format.
Michaela is all about art and design. She loves books about God and Jesus. She also likes the “girly” books. She currently reads MG books and can only accept books in print format.
Angelina loves any and all picture books. She LOVES books that have to do with dogs and God. She just turned 6 and loves getting new books to review. She has just started learning to read so she currently is only available for picture books and young children books (i.e. First readers, etc.). She can only accept print books.

Cyrus: What do you look for in a book?
Charity: The main thing I look for in a book is how captivating the blurb is on the back or the inside cover. If it sounds like something I like then I will read it. Books that I read right now are YA, Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction, Indie and some mysteries. I am not real big on fantasy/sci fi. I also don’t like reading Erotica. I will admit that I did like 50 Shades of Grey, but I don’t feel its too appropriate to have reviews of books such as that on my blog where my children’s reviews are, however, if someone has a “light” erotica book that they would like reviewed, I would consider it, but I would have to feature it under a special tab on my blog. I haven’t had to make a new tab yet, but I would consider it. I also am a huge fan of the Twilight and Hunger Games Series, so if you have any books like that, I would gladly read them  :-)

Cyrus: What kinds of elements are a huge turn-off?
Charity: A huge turn off for me is fantasy/sci fit, hardcore Erotica, Western and historical romances. I am not big into romances unless they are contemporary YA romance or chick lit kind of romance. No “Fabio” romances for me!

Cyrus: Tell us about your favorite-ever book and why it is.
Cyrus: I have several favorite books, but I would like to talk about the one that I just read that is now in my “favorite” category. I just finished Snow by Kathryn Hewitt (blog tour spot will be featured on my blog November 5) and this book brought out raw emotions in me that I thought no longer existed. It takes a lot for me to get emotional over a book and this one was able to do it. The main character, Ruth, has a lot to handle at a tender age of 15. She is a Godly teenager and then meets Luke and goes against everything she has believed in. She has to make some very hard decisions and her relationship is not a “healthy” one. This book reminded me of my past and difficult decisions and relationships that I chose to be in at one point. I just really think that every teenage girl should read this book as it brings up very tender topics.

Cyrus: Same question for your “junior staffers.”
Arianna’s favorite book is “Dragon Slippers” by Jessica Day George because it’s interesting. It is adventurous like she likes.
Angel’s favorite book is “Deep, Dark, and Dangerous” by Mary Downing Hahn because she likes ghost stories and it is really interesting.
Michaela’s favorite book is “Just Because” because it tells her about the stories of God and Jesus did.

Cyrus: Have you received any review requests on books that just don’t cut muster? What do you do then?
Charity: Yes, we have. In a situation such as this, we notify the author and let them know that the book isn’t for us. We give them the option of us doing a review on what we have already read or just not doing a review at all. We do guarantee that we will give every book the first 40 pages for us to get “in to”. If we are not able to relate with the story by then, we stop and notify the author.

Cyrus: How does one submit a review request to 5 Girls Reviews?

Charity: To submit a request to us, please first check out our blog at and after you have read the welcome tab and still want us to review your book, please email us your request at Please tell us the name of the book, a brief blurb about the book, and the formats you have available.

Cyrus: You seem to have a new venture launching as well. Tell us more about that one.
Charity: Well since our review blog took off so well, we decided to try our hand at organizing blog tours. We have created a new blog for that at and all the information on pricing/packages can be found there. Since we just launched our book tour company, we are giving the first 5 authors/publishers to book with us a 25% discount on the package of their choice.  We also have a special holiday promotion as well, but this promotion CANNOT be used in conjunction with the 25% offer. We are very excited to start helping authors/publishers in getting the word out about their new books (old books too) and hosting tours for them. If you would like for us to book a tour for you, please email us at with  the name of the tour you have selected in the subject line. Please provide us with the name of your book, the package you have chosen, and the date(s) or month(s) you would like to book. We are now accepting tours for the following genres:
Young Adult
Middle Grade
Children's Books
Chick Lit
Contemporary Fiction

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Cyrus: Thanks for stopping by, Charity. Your projects sure sound exciting, and I wish you good luck in getting them off the ground.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cy's Political Vocabulary

Hi, folks. This week, let's just look at some more of the dirty tricks our politicians pull on us to steal our faith and votes.

First off, let me state that there is a difference between a statesman and a politician. No matter what side of the aisle you stand, history has shown us statesmen who stood above polls and public opinion, and made the unpopular decisions that had to be made for the best of the Republic. It seems , however, that men like Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagen are no more. We're being led by men and women whose sole desire is to be elected for one more term no matter what they have to promise, and look where that has gotten us.

It used to be that candidates told us what they wanted to do in the office. Now they all just seem to want to scare us away from the other guy. Here's a few of the terms that get thrown around, and their real definitions:

Special Interests: A phantom that needs no definition. The Boogeyman. Originally refers to a term to define a group that sends a lobbyist to represent the views of a minority for the puroposes of pushing through some pet legislation. Now, it means anyone the candidate wants to demonize.

The 1%: People who deserve to have their money taken from them and given to "those less fortunate." In reality, of course, it just goes to the bureaucrats who run the program.

The 99%: A term employed to make the rest of us feel like we're entitled to take from the 1%, only because there's more of us than there are of them. Actually, we don't get a penny. The money gets thrown into a bottomless pit of committees, clerks and bureaucrats who run the program. In other words, it's a scam job.

Their Fair Share: Another excuse to raise taxes. One more lie to convince us that, somehow, we will be exempt when the rates go up.

Kennedy: Cut taxes to create jobs. Whenever anyone tries to use Kennedy as an example of cutting taxes to create jobs, the other side is obliged to scream, "You're not Kennedy!" It must be specifically forgotten that his approval rating had dropped into the 30-40% range, hence the reason he went to Dallas to begin with.

Tax Breaks For The Rich: A convenient label to hang onto any legislation that favors business owners and other job creators.

Created or Saved Job: Cheap and easy claim. Totally unprovable. If you want brownie points, just say you've created XX number of jobs, and even better (though more vague), saved XX number of jobs. No one can disprove you or show any numbers to undermine the claim. How can they prove you didn't? Just say you did, and you look like a saint.

Independent: Slanted in the candidates favor.

Poll: We asked a bunch of people who agreed with us, and they said we're right.

How one chooses one's words is essential in flavoring the lie, after all. Now, we've got an election this Tuesday. Open your eyes already, and vote what you believe, not what they tell you to believe. Sort through the mud and get your answers. As a country, we have precious little time left in which to turn the tide. Make your vote count. Just vote.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why, yes I am.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room.

I am not a Republican. They are a bunch of sell-outs and hypocrites.

I am not a Democrat. They seem to believe that government programs are the only fix for any problem.

I'm not a Libertarian. I don't fit into their little box of anarchy.

I'm definitely not a socialist or communist. Socialists haven't met a totalitarian government they don't like, and both socialism and communism murder individual effort through their confiscatory tax programs and punishments for those who choose to excel.

Only a fool votes a straight ticket. I know Dems with whom I agree more than their counterparts, and I throw my pitiful little one vote behind them to the best of my ability. I can safely call myself a non-aligned conservative. Hear me out one time, and I'll tell you why.

I believe in the power of the individual in a free market economic system that rewards those who work harder or create goods and services that meet a demand. Yes, Mr. President, those small business people did build that. They created their own opportunities, picked themselves up by the bootstraps in most cases, pushed harder than their peers, and did what it took to make their businesses or ventures successful.

I think most unions are the bane of a free economy through their favoritism based on seniority rather than performance, and their determination to create and foster conflict between labor and management. Line factory work isn't a career. It's a stepping stone to something better. Union interference creates a culture that rewards mediocrity.

I believe life begins at conception, and renaming something in court for the sake of insulating oneself from consequences of one's actions is a crime of the highest order. They call them "Fetal tissue masses." "Fetus" is Latin. In context, it means "Offspring" or "Brood." That seems like another word for "Child" to me. Taking that life, terminating a pregnancy, should not be a legal matter, but a medical one, established to prevent the imminent death of the mother. It's a serious matter, the taking of a life. It needs to be taken more seriously than an idle "choice" based on convenience or some arbitrary, inconsistent standard.

I believe that our government has become too overbearing and burdensome, and if our founding fathers saw what our federal level has become, they would declare another revolution. Over-regulation handcuffs fairness by applying the same standards to small business as large business. Our government taxes business at such a punitive rate, it forces companies to leave the country, and then punishes them for doing so. The federal government forced banks to make risky loans in the '90's that resulted in the Freddy Mac/Fannie Mae collapses, and then they blamed the banks for the collapse. Government attacked those who bought RV's, and when they stopped buying RV's, those who made RV's lost their jobs because nobody bought them anymore. Then the Government moaned and howled about the employment crisis they themselves created (anyone remember Elkhart, Indiana?).

I do remember Henry David Thoreau's famous quote: "That government is best which governs least."
Our own constitution lays out the responsibilities of government:
1.) Establish Justice (Provide a legal system for civil and criminal justice and police to enforce laws)
2.) Insure Domestic tranquility (keep the peace)
3.) Provide for the common defense (set up our military to protect us from outside invaders)
4.) Promote the general welfare (Create a fair and even playing field so anyone who wants to can better themselves).
5.) Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

Liberty means the freedom to choose our own destinies. Ben Franklin said, "He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security." Does this mean no one should be responsible for those who cannot provide for themselves or have fallen on hard times? God forbid! But there's a big difference between a hand up and a handout. And our government seems to specialize in handouts, especially those with strings attached. There are hundreds of private organizations who could manage assistance programs a thousand times more efficiently that our government, but they are handcuffed by regulations to the point of strangulation.

I believe a person's relationship with their God is theirs, whether I agree with them or not. But when someone's religious beliefs include harming me or my family, or anyone within the borders of my country, I have the right and responsibility to defend my family and countrymen to my last breath or bullet if need be.

I believe a military organization needs to set its own rules on engagement. The job of the military is to kill people and break things. It's a hell of a job, but someone has to do it. We need to let the military be military, not handcuff them with rules of engagement that result in more of our boys and girls coming home in body bags. When the military is given a job, they need the freedom to do it.

You might not agree. That's fine. We can disagree and still be friends. That's what makes America the greatest nation on the planet. We still have a semblance of liberty left, and I for one do not intend to let it go the way of the dodo.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Propaganda 101: A further discussion

Okay, we've briefly discussed the dirty tricks played on us by the propaganda machine. That's especially important when one realizes a critical election is just around the corner.

Hopefully, we've also seen the dirty tricks pulled by various media outlets over the years to steer their own agendas or candidates to successful positions.

On Gun Control (Big issue for both sides): How much of the propaganda machine allows stories about homeowners or business owners who successfully and properly used their weapons in defense of their lives or property? Seriously, ask yourself when the last story of such a type was broadcast, or printed. Oh, but that's not news, they say. The more sensational story is the man who lost his head and shot an unarmed boy (An unarmed man can still pose a threat to life. Just ask Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan). Hm. I thoiught the press was supposed to be unbiased and balanced.

Abortion: When was the last time you heard any positive coverage of a person who stood for the concept of like at conception? What news story can you point to where they weren't branded as "anti-choice" as opposed to "Pro-life?" (Remember those sticky "Anti" and "Pro" labels?)

Taxes: "Their Fair Share" seems to be the battle cry of a certain party. It's been taken up en masse by newspapers, television and radio outlets all over the country. Let's look at the truth behind that. Look at your 1040 form from last year. The last two years. The last three years. Look at Block 2, Federal Income Tax Withheld. Now, look at the amount of your refund. If the amount of your refund was equal to or greater than the amount of federal income tax withheld, guess how much income tax you paid? Quite a few of you would find out the government actually paid you, after your deductions and credits.

Even if Mitt Romney paid only 14% of his income in taxes (admitted by everyone on TV, mind you), and that still amounted to some several millions of dollars, how many of you can say you paid 14%? How many paid even One Million dollars?

The National TaxPayer's Union obtained this information from the IRS for 2009:

Percentiles Ranked by AGI
AGI Threshold on Percentiles
Percentage of Federal Personal Income Tax Paid
Top 1%
Top 5%
Top 10%
Top 25%
Top 50%
Bottom 50%
Note: AGI is Adjusted Gross Income
Source: Internal Revenue Service

 I apologize for not having more recent data. But rest assured, the current administration fought for higher rates for those top earners. What then is really "Their Fair Share?" Seems to me the higher earners are paying much more than a fair share. Who dictates who "has earned enough, and must now share their good fortune?"

 Job Creation: Now, if I may ask: Who of you has ever been hired by a poor man? A poor man can create a job for him,self, if he applies his efforts and talents to make his life better for him and his family. For instance, taking a second job as a writer, or a weekend musician. Buying and selling on eBay. But I've never been hired by a poor man. And  government can only create government jobs.

It seems to me our government has a lot of things screwed up, and they have been using their pawns in the media to drag us along by our noses, to create the emotional response that most favors transferring more and more of our liberty to the government. We expect them to house us, to feed us, to clothe us through their many assistance programs, all the while expecting "The rich" to pay for it all. Then, after "the rich" have been bled dry, we only are left with a country of poor people.

Is that what you really want?

I will be so bold as to make a prediction this year: If Barack Obama loses the election, there will be demands for recounts, just like the 2000 elections. Hanging chads and pregnant chads are no longer the issue. But there will be debates about who is too stupid to know how to draw a line between points of an arrow. There will demonstrations, and I predict there will be accusations of voter fraud and intimidation. Ultimately, there will be a lawsuit. For a new demon has crept from the filthy corners of Pandora's Box. And we are now powerless to prevent it being turned loose once more.

Now, all the questions I've asked above are honest questions. Answer them for yourself, and don't let your current stance on any issue blind you to facts. You don't have to agree with me. But if you do disagree, make a substantive and supported point, and please leave the hate speech at home. Comments posted by Anonymous or Unknown will be deleted without review. If you want to take me to task, do it like a human and stand up. If I'm wrong, facts will prove me so.