A RARE MOMENT OF CIVILITY IN THE SPAMALOT UNIVERSE

We all get a lot of junk email. I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t still get the pounds of paper I used to get. I felt guilty throwing away all that stuff … but I can delete email with nary a twinge.

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest to win a free Kindle. It turned out the result was that I got subscribed to dozens of indie author websites. I’m all in favor of free books … but this was a deluge of stuff and it was an avalanche, gaining momentum as it hurtled down the mountain.

I’ve been unsubscribing as fast as I could find the right link.

A few days ago, I got this email. It was so polite, so civil, so … well … just nice, I actually resubscribed just because I appreciated there was at least one person who recognized that spamming your potential followers might not be the best approach.

I was so impressed, I re-subscribed. Just to show my appreciation.


Dear Marilyn,

Last Friday you received an e-mail titled “What fantasy books to read for the summer”. This e-mail was sent to almost 5000 people, whose addresses were obtained through a contest run by http://www.freekindlegiveaway.com, a contest for which I was one of the sponsors.

One of the terms for participating in that contest was to agree to be subscribed to a number of authors’ mailing lists, including my own. This contest was run a few months ago, and I received your e-mail addresses early in June.

jeroen steenbeke books page

I hesitated using your e-mail addresses. Before said contest my mailing list only had 83 subscribers, so a sudden growth of 6000% is no small thing. That said, the responses to Friday’s mail have been mixed. I’ve seen a surge in downloads, and I’ve also seen a surge in unsubscribes. I kind of expected that. Had I participated in a contest that required me to subscribe to mailing lists I would probably unsubscribe at the first received e-mail as well. What I had not expected was the number of people who filed complaints with MailChimp, or the response by MailChimp itself. In essence: they strongly urged me to reconsider my strategy for obtaining new subscribers.

I have given this some thought, and have, after some consideration, decided to automatically unsubscribe every single person that received Friday’s e-mail. As such, this e-mail is a confirmation that you are no longer subscribed to my book update mailing list, and will not receive any future mass-mailings from me unless you manually resubscribe through my sign-up page.

In addition, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience my mails have caused. I am not a fan of unsolicited mail myself, and each time I get a newsletter I don’t remember signing up for I have a tendency to complain rather loudly. I am sorry for having caused similar discomfort to others, and I hope you’ll all forgive me.

Sincerely,

Jeroen Steenbeeke

BELLWETHER – BY CONNIE WILLIS

Connie Willis_1996_Bellwether

I read Bellwether again. I finished it last night. Each time I read it — this is the 5th or 6th time — I learn something new. It is one of those books that doesn’t get old. Always funny, always wise. And always worth the effort and time.

Bellwether grabbed me from page one … from sentence one. Not merely was I highly entertained by the story, but I learned a lot about chaos theory, fads, sheep, and the meaning of “bellwether,” a term I’d heard and used — and misused — for years, but never entirely understood.

It was the bellwether and sheep connection I never got. What do I know about sheep? And why would I care? It turns out, sheep and people have an unnerving amount in common.

A bellwether is a leader of sheep, an über ewe, the sheep who the flock follows. There’s no discernible reason why a bellwether leads and nor any obvious reason why the flock follows. There is just something about that ewe.

What the bellwether does, other sheep do. The flock will follow her — mindlessly, blindly — over a cliff if that’s where she leads. The flock doesn’t know they are following the bellwether. They just do it.

Humans have bellwethers too. We no more recognize our bellwethers than does a flock of sheep. Still we follow them. An atavistic instinct, embedded in our DNA? Some are born to lead, others to follow. A very few will walk a unique path.

The book is laugh-out-loud funny. Erudite, witty, and replete with trivia guaranteed to upgrade your anecdotal skills.

Bellwether suggests answers to previously unanswerable questions. Why do people vote against their own self-interest? Why do we do so many stupid things? The answer? We’re following a bellwether. They are loose amongst us, invisible shakers and movers. Unaware of their effect on the people around them.

You should read this book. It also explains a lot of events throughout history which have never made any kind of sense. Even after you know all the facts of what happened, most of history still doesn’t make sense. When you add in a few critical bellwethers, it comes clear.

Human life, history and relationships are illogical. They just happen. We can explain them only in retrospect. That’s what historians are for, after all. To make sense of the past because it won’t make sense by itself. Human society is chaotic. The only predictable thing is unpredictability.

I found Bellwether original, insightful, amusing and thought-provoking. Highly entertaining and funny. I can’t imagine what more anyone could want from a book. I recommend it both in print (Kindle or paper) and audio. It is a book you will read and remember.

Then read it again. There’s more to it than you will get in a single reading.

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM STRANGER, INTERDIMENSIONAL INSURANCE AGENT

“What’s that?” you cry. “What’s an interdimensional insurance agent and who is Tom Stranger?”

From the official blurb on Audible. com:

“Have you ever seen a planet invaded by rampaging space mutants from another dimension or Nazi dinosaurs from the future? Don’t let this happen to you! Rifts happen, so you should be ready when universes collide. A policy with Stranger & Stranger can cover all of your interdimensional insurance needs. Rated “Number One in Customer Satisfaction” for three years running, no claim is too big or too weird for Tom Stranger to handle. The Adventures of Tom Stranger is free until June 21, 2016.”

I don’t work for Audible, so all I can tell you is that this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever listened to in my listening life. It was obviously written for audio. The author is part of the story as is the narrator (Adam Baldwin).

tom stranger

If you like science fiction and you’ve got a weird sense of humor, this is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s just over 2 hours long. I probably will listen to it at least twice, just to pick up on all the humor and wit. It makes fun of science fiction as a genre, and sci fi writers. It also does a great take-down on insurance companies, their agents, and customer service as well as those people who won’t stop calling and trying to sell you something.

As a side note, we’ve been getting a deluge of calls from a company that comes up on Caller ID as “Burial Insurance” … so maybe they know something we don’t know? Or maybe it’s TOM STRANGER!

The price (free) is right. It’s also available on from Amazon. It won’t be free after June 21st, so grab a copy while you can. It’s really very good and hilarious.

I HAVE A LITTLE SHADOW …

Striped by shadow

MY SHADOW

By Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Daily Post: Shadow

WHO WON THE BOOK? THE WINNER OF LAST WEEK’S GIVEAWAY IS ..

vabt-highresolutionROSE LEISING, YOU WON A FREE COPY OF “OBAMA’S ODYSSEY”


The author graciously donated a copy of her book to a lucky commenter … and Rose, you are IT!

obama's odyssey amazon cover

Rose, please get in touch with me; I need your mailing address! And thank you all for participating. The author appreciates it and I appreciate it:-)

FREE COPY OF OBAMA’S ODYSSEY TO A LUCKY COMMENTER!

vabt-highresolution

WIN A FREE COPY OF OBAMA’S ODYSSEY


The author has graciously donated a copy of her book to one lucky commenter. This giveaway will run for a week, through April 27th. I’ll pick one winner at random from among everyone who comments on this post. But only on this post and multiple comments from the same person count as a single entry.

obama's odyssey amazon cover

If you are usually a lurker, it’s time to uncloak! Don’t forget to leave a comment!

I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday, April 27.

OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: THE 2008 RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House – Connie Corcoran Wilson


It wasn’t what I expected and after I started reading it, I had to revise my approach to the book. I had been expecting the author’s journey, starting in Iowa and ending with the 2008 general election. Instead, it’s a compilation of blog posts written by the author over that same time span. It covers the same time period and material … but not as expected.

Obamas Odyssey book

Rather than a continuous, sequential narrative, the book comprises series of snapshots. Interviews and events with candidates, wannabes, politicians, volunteers, voters, support staff, and political operatives. Connie Corcoran Wilson’s posts are witty, amusing, perceptive, and enlightening, especially when she focuses on the realities of life as a working journalist covering a presidential campaign.

I could very easily relate the long hours, the short sleep, the rapid changes of venue. The mental agility required to keep up that grueling pace for all those months. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, being a working reporter is far from glamorous.

Ms. Wilson captures the character of the people with whom she interacts with charm, humor, and grace. But there is, nonetheless, a choppy quality that is the inevitable result of a compilation of posts rather than a story. There is also a bit more repetition of subjects that is, again, the inevitable result of compiling blog entries rather than writing the story as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Connie Wilson is a fine writer and she excels at her medium … blogging. I’m a blogger too. I “get” it. But blogging is not authoring. It’s the same church, but a different pew. Blog posts are free-standing, short subjects. You can collect them and put them in a binding to form a book-length volume of material, but it will still lack a continuous story. This lack becomes more increasingly problematic as the book progresses. The jumps between posts are sometimes a bit jarring.

The result? Despite excellent writing, the book doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like what it is: a huge collection of political blog posts. The posts are good, many excellent. A lot of perceptivity and sensitivity raises her writing well above the so-called news writing you find on the Internet … or for that matter, in much of what you’ll find in print or on television. I would have appreciated more “connective tissue” to give the book an easier-to-follow timeline and structure.

The good news? The insider views of the campaign are priceless. The people. The voters. The volunteers. The politicians and their operatives. The process itself with all its quirks. The information is timely and might help you put the current political frenzy in context.

The material and author’s insights make Obama’s Odyssey a worthwhile investment of time. It’s a good, albeit flawed, book that covers the extraordinary 2008 campaign with a rare intimacy.