Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!


Buildingontheword.org

A Sunday of religious services, family, and canned ham (surrounded in gelatin that we smother in whipped cream for dessert.) The movie this evening will be Hidden Figuresor an old mystery my wife digs out from her vast collection of old mysteries. A suitable genre on this day.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: Your Money or Your Faith in Islamic Spain

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval SpainThe Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Darío Fernández-Morera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Muslims once conquered most of Spain. What was life like for non-Muslims under their control? Christian and Jewish status in the period 711 to 1492 A.D. is the subject of this book. Contemporary accounts often allude to these centuries as a Golden Era of art, science and inter-faith tolerance, presided over by enlightened Muslims.

Professor Fernández-Morera offers an opposing view.

Using various accounts from Muslim, Christian and Jewish sources, we are presented with a Spain twisted by religious tension and marked by periodic uprisings, mass exportation of Christians to North Africa, and subordinate dhimmi status for Jews and Christians living under Muslim rule, forced to pay a tax for “protection.”

Some Jews, at certain times, did hold responsible positions, but their advancement relied less on tolerance and more on an individual Caliph’s distrust of fellow Muslims and the ulama—the religious council that enforced the Maliki version of Sharia law governing Spain at that time.

Given each faith’s exclusionary practices, the subsequent invasion of Spain by even more religiously strict North Africans, and the unrelenting pressure of the Christian reconquest, there seemed little inclination for interfaith dialogue. In Fernández-Morera's work, peace only descended after one faith or the other had been subsumed by the victors.

While readable, the book carries almost a hundred pages of endnotes and bibliography, basically a third of the overall text. I’m glad the author did his homework, but this imbalance left one feeling the main body might be a bit thin.


View all my reviews

Monday, April 10, 2017

High Like a Rock Star on Social Media


theodysseyonline.com

"Constant novelty at a click can cause addiction."

(Unease over what to write next. Wanted to go out to the kitchen for a cinnamon roll, but didn't.)

I just saw a video explaining why I spend so much time hopscotching around social media. That's because Twitter, Reddit, etc. are designed that way. Say I'm sitting at the computer and experience a negative emotion such as anxiety. A neurochemical called dopamine is released in anticipation of surfing for a reward, such as a funny video or interesting post. The notion of finding something cool on social media will lead me to click-scroll-swipe away, often to the exclusion of doing something productive such as write-exercise-interact in person with other human beings.

Internet addiction isn't new, but this made sense to me as I recalled my cigarette smoking years. The anticipation of lighting up released the dopamine. I feel the same way when logging on. And I escape into social media whenever I've hit another writing roadblock just as I used to fire up a smoke.

On the video, the addiction portion begins around 2:15. As a side note, I watched this on Saturday afternoon. Then I turned off my computer and left it dark through Sunday. I was very uneasy all that day. But I did finish reading a book and scribbled out notes for a review. I also thought of an idea for a short story, cycled, and watched TV with my wife.

Today, I logged back in, more aware of how I feel when I experience the urge to bolt from a vexing task and surf around. Fascinating.



h/t: What I've Learned

UPDATE:

Here's a darker, more global view of where dopamine addiction can lead:


h/t: Summer Rayne Oakes

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Pruning the Sidebar and My Lying Head


MVDIT Tech Blog
Yes, I know, blogging is sooo last decade. But on I trudge. Of course, I've neglected to trim the sidebar verge. So many promising blogs abandoned, without even a "Bank Sale" sign out front. But now tidiness reigns.

More writing today about the sidebar than I've done the last week on the book. Family crisis, problems with another neighbor—not that one—household projects, and a general lack of pep.

I blame my wife.

If she hadn't gotten a decent paying job last year that eased our financial pressures, I'd be cranking out copy like it was 2015 when I wrote 50 Shades of Zane Grey and Hallow Mass back-to-back while recovering from cancer surgery.

Already, the allure of a new project croons to me in quiet moments:

"It'll be easy to write. Hardly any research. The metaphors will blossom like desert flowers. You'll be finished in no time. This new book will be a big hit." 

Oh, devious, sinister cranium.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Desk Fever


designboom

I must sit down at my desk again, with surface of particle board,
And all I ask is a working Mac with power strip and cord,
And pencil drawer and file drawer with drafts aligned and waiting,
And a picture, you see, of my wife and me, both smiling, neither faking. 

I must sit down at my desk again, and scribble, feeling swell,
Waxing bold, if it must be told, because of the new desk smell,
And all I ask is a cup of joe and a YouTube playlist long,
And a run of words, no culls or turds; woven prose like merry song,

I must sit down at my desk again, to a solitary author's life,
To pages of mold, soon to be gold, once slashed with my editor's knife,
And all I ask is a sale or two, upon my journey's end,
And as I wait, in financial straits, I'll start to write again. 

(With apologies to John Masefield.)

Yes, I do have a new desk.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mystery Author Salutes Hallow Mass

(Where the psychopaths grow.)

Under the Florida sun, Barbara Goodheart taps out her eclectic writing, penning thrillers such as The Wild Place, as well as medical books—co-authored with her scientist husband—dealing with diabetes control.

And now Barbara opines most delightfully on my Lovecraftian horror novel, Hallow Mass:

"Devotees of this type of book will . . . find . . . wonderful writing you
 don't typically [see] in this genre.

'. . . unkempt children who watch you like coyotes from trash-littered yards . . . '

'. . . the campus dozed like a drunk in a hammock . . . '

'As the stars rose above, a young prisoner kneeling between Frye and Hutchins commenced to shake like a dog passing a coconut.'

And many other examples of great writing that are too long to include in a brief review . . . "

Scroll down and read Barbara's Amazon review in its entirety, then peek at a few pages

In softcover and durable ebook.

It's Saturday. Indulge.