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

If your book is one that is not listed in one of these genres, please email us at and we will gladly decide if it is one that we would like to host for you.

We accept books from publishers and self-published books.
Please help us get our company off the ground!!

If you are interested in hosting tours for 5 Girls Book Tours, please email us at with "Blog Tour Host" in the subject line.

We will need the following information:

Your name.
Blog name.
Blog address.
Email address.

At this time, we do not require a certain number of followers, but we would like you to have at least 1 month of blogging experience. Once we have your information, you will be notified of any new tours coming up by email.

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.