Cunctating Towards the Tipping Point of Earth’s Destruction 150 150 admin

Cunctating Towards the Tipping Point of Earth’s Destruction

Cunctators, all of us!

Don’t you love that word? I learned it at Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day from Wordsmith.org. It means one who procrastinates an enormous amount, from Latin cunctari to hesitate.

Like the majority of the human race, I cunctate, I postpone, I wait and see. Not all the time. And not even when it comes to huge tasks; my cunctative habit is uniquely formed to fit my talents, weakness, and lifestyle.

My mother cunctates less than most. She approaches life with fortitude and great discipline. Now in her mid-seventies, her ability to face the future is paying off in wonderful ways. In the last few years, she has learned to operate a Macintosh (her emails often contain inventive graphics), started T’ai Chi classes and joined a women’s group.

Mom never lets problems linger, whether it’s a messy kitchen — God forbid she should leave the house with dirty dishes — or coming up with ways for a recent widow to reimagine her life.

Alas, Mom isn’t running the world. Cunctators are running things, and so we have a really big problem.

Here it is: Scientists warn that Earth may be approaching a tipping point. This was the headline of an article posted in the Los Angeles Times on page AAF on Friday, June 8th.

Not the front page — already a sign of suspect cunctation. And then the conditional verbs “may be,” which immediately let all of us cunctators off the hook.

But consider the sub-heading: They liken humans’ effect to past global events that led to mass extinctions. The reporter Bettina Boxall wrote it, I believe, to spur the minority of non-cunctators, like my mother or Al Gore (don’t I wish he was in charge?) who might actually do something about this looming cataclysmic crisis.

Do what? You ask. You already recycle. And gave up your gas-guzzlers. You feel virtuous when you leave the grocery store with your own bags. You take pride in your vegetable garden, however meager.

I understand. We’re overwhelmed. What can we possibly do about this inevitable downward slide towards “mass extinction”?

Ouch. That hurts, if you really take it in.

For decades, scientists have issued dire warnings about global climate change, their clarion call becoming successively louder over the years. And yet, we continue to cunctate, putting off any radical change that would severely change our lifestyle and hope to save our environment.

Homo sapiens probably came to dominate Earth because we DID cunctate. Of course, we had bigger brains than our sibling species, but more importantly, our mental function for complex planning was more developed.

Complex planning allowed Homo sapiens to conceive of future steps and determine whether those steps would aid his survival. Our long dead siblings Homo erectus and the Neanderthals lacked this ability. We delayed. They plunged ahead.

You might simply plunge your spear into the raging mastodon, and end up as its lunch, rather than taking the time to figure out and develop one that would sail through the air and hit its mark. Our predecessors, in their cunctative wisdom, put off the hunt, tinkering with their tools and means of attack until the odds of success increased.

In evolutionary terms, cunctation offered great benefits. And yet, I wonder, have we become too reliant upon our adaption for complex planning? Has it become the master, and we, its slave?

Our species has gone from dominating the planet to causing and passively regarding the destruction of our environment (the clear path of an excessive cunctator, if ever there was one).

One of the primary reasons for cunctation is fear. Fear of both success and failure. Knowing we lack the skills to move forward, we cunctate until we are ready.

But we can’t afford to delay.

By now, let’s face it: the likelihood of global climate change is no joke, or left-wing conspiracy. Boxall quotes Anthony Barnosky, the lead author of a recent paper in the journal Nature, “The net effects of what we’re causing could actually be equivalent to an asteroid striking the Earth in a worst-case scenario.”

The causes: “exploding global population, rapidly rising temperature and the clearance of more than 40 percent of Earth’s surface for urban development or agriculture.”

I can only imagine that another species, perhaps one invented in the wilds of genetic engineering, will supersede mankind, just as surely as we won over our long-gone sibling species. Tormented by such thoughts and possibilities, I recently published the first installment in a series of young adult dystopian novels in which a girl’s mad scientist father engineers a new hybrid human-beast that is capable of withstanding the withering heat on impoverished Earth.

As Barnosky said, “By the year 2070, we’ll live in a hotter world than it’s been since humans evolved as a species.” (That’s only two and a half generations from now!)

A cautionary tale disguised as a Beauty and the Beast story, Revealing Eden is my small attempt to get across this very same message in an entertaining format: we must change our cunctative habits or face “mass extinction.”

Or perhaps, our great-great grandchildren will adapt to look more like the animals that their forebears have driven to near extinction. The Jaguar Man, as in my book, or Raven Girl?

I fear the odds of changing our cunctative ways are slim. It worked million of years ago, so why bother?

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. The hurrier I go, the behinder I get. Tomorrow is another day.

Sound familiar?


On beauty in the age of gloss 150 150 admin

On beauty in the age of gloss

Tell me the truth, Sister, on a scale of one to ten, how do you rate your beauty? Hmmm. I perceive your disdain, even through the nebulous reaches of the Internet.

That’s a guy thing, you say. Women don’t do that.

Really? Perhaps, when you look in the mirror, you don’t slap across your chest an invisible beauty pageant banner that rates your visible assets. But I bet you rate, not only yourself, but every woman that comes onto your radar, and all the time, too.

You have your own system, or particular symbology for rating beauty, I imagine. Like my Italian mother who passes judgment on films with a number of meatballs, the higher the better, your cultural identity probably informs your ratings.

In fact, we all do it, my dear. Honestly, how can we avoid it when a constant barrage of images conspires to create insecurity about our looks? Have you noticed how quickly your self-imposed rating plummets after flipping through a fashion magazine? I’d like to see what would happen to their sales if those same high glossies advertised average-looking people.

Perhaps, the magazine editors know how much we despise ourselves and therefore, figure we would never buy their products unless we felt duly punished. Sadly, too many of us inwardly feel like Groucho Marx: “I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member.”

The day I caught myself comparing my grade-school daughter’s looks to the other girls in her class, I thought, this must stop! I understood that, on a subtle level, I would pass on to her the same limiting behavior with which I had been conditioned. In my heart, I only wanted to send a message that each girl was beautiful in her own way.

No doubt, beauty is power, often as formidable as a genius IQ. In the evolution of humanity, it has served a purpose with the selection of genes, just as in all species. I strongly suspect, however, that our obsession with beauty has deprived us of something of equal value, if not greater.

When I set out to write the first installment in my new series of fantasy romance novels, Revealing Eden (Save The Pearls Part One), I found myself facing twin fears that, at the time, seemed thematically unrelated, but ultimately, came together in a perfect way.

Eden Newman lives in a post-apocalyptic world where the ability to withstand extreme solar radiation defines beauty and class. The more melanin in your skin, and therefore, the darker it is, the better your chance of survival, the higher your beauty rating. Eden’s blond, blue-eyed looks brand her as an ugly, oppressed Pearl. She’s desperate to find a mate, and doomed if she doesn’t.

All she really wants is for some guy to see past her obvious defects and admire the Real Eden, the one on the inside. Honestly, isn’t that what we all want? Then why are we so quick to judge each other based on appearance?

One day in grade school, as I stood at the front of the school waiting for my mother, a boy leaned out of the window of a departing bus and hurled a racial slur at me. It wasn’t even about my race! But it stung all the same. With my wildly curly hair and prominent features, I didn’t look like the other girls, and I guess that frightened him.

Perhaps because of that moment, I never felt beautiful. I focused on developing my mind and told myself I didn’t care about looks. Years later, when I starred in several indie films, I was flabbergasted to read reviews that praised my beauty. To this day, I never have understood why appearance often matters more than character or intelligence.

Call me over-imaginative, but I fear that our fixation on external beauty is now as useless and as cumbersome to our survival as if we had reptilian tails.

We vote on leaders, not based on intelligence or soulful qualities, but by the style of their clothes or haircut.

We ignore the real reasons for deep problems like unemployment, economic disparity or the continuing destruction of our environment because solutions like better education or higher taxes or cap and trade require a deep change in how we look at the world, and at ourselves.

We want quick fixes. We’re like the patient who only treats the symptoms, never approaching illness from a holistic point of view, body and soul. We’d rather take the next miracle cure that promises to fix all our ills. Or better, yet, get a facelift in the hope of erasing more than wrinkles.

As Audrey Hepburn famously and generously said, “For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.”

Can we learn to see who we are and where we are going before it’s too late? I hope so.

Next time you look in the mirror, tell yourself you are uniquely beautiful, just as you are, and send that message to the next person you meet.


Confessions of a Book Reader 150 150 admin

Confessions of a Book Reader

I bet Santa left an e-reader under the tree for you or perhaps, it was one of your Hanukkah gifts. You may have even asked for it because you wanted to join the ever-growing legions of e-book devotees. But tell me, honestly, did you receive it with mixed feelings of curiosity and mild regret?

They say I should get an e-reader, and I know I should, too. They say I’ll appreciate the ease of traveling with several novels stored in the neat tablet, or the well-lit surface. And because they know I care so deeply about the environment, they remind me that an e-reader doesn’t consume trees.

I smile, and murmur, unable to look them in the eye, “Of course, you’re right. I will get one, eventually.”

I wonder how long I can hold out until I will be forced to join these passionate e-readers. I fear that, one day, hardback and paper books will be banned. I’ve become less willing, therefore, to loan out mine. At night, when I climb into bed after a long day’s work, eager to slip in between the cool sheets, I reach for the latest book I’m reading with guilty pleasure.

The truth is that I love real books. I love the heft of them, the look of them, and the quiet, intimate experience that they provide. I love the neat framework that encloses some part of the writer’s mind, just for me.

When I was a young girl, my mother took my siblings and me to the local library in Coral Gables, Florida, every two weeks. I felt a quiet thrill each time I walked through the large wooden double doors, past the coral rock walls and into this veritable treasure chest. What gems would I pick today? I would leave excited to devour the neat stack of books in my arms.

You see, each book I read while I was growing up was like a life raft thrown out to save me; the author, a beneficent guide to new ideas or interesting people. The book prepared me for life, testing my character as I projected myself into the literary characters’ lives. I longed to someday join this elite group and hopefully, pass along the favor to other young readers.

Yes, yes, I know that the essence of the story is not changed whether you read it on a kindle or on paper. And yet, I imagine that the disadvantages of e-reading will far outweigh the possible benefits.

Will I have to charge yet another damn device? What will become of my favorite worn bookmarks, for example, the angel embossed on a tobacco-colored leather strip that I purchased in Venice, Italy? Won’t I miss the silent telegraphing that occurs in a café or on a plane when other obsessive readers, as if we belong to some secret club, can see what I am now reading? Must I strip bare this beloved pastime when as the decades creep by I am already reduced to a gluten-free, treadmill-heavy, sleep-deprived existence?

I may be wrong — my boyfriend says I am whenever he sits beside me reading on his iPad. Of course, he isn’t sentimental about books in the same way I am. In my linen closet sits a box of favorite books, saved for my children’s children, some of which were mine when I was a child. I have donated most of their books to our neighborhood school, but was unable to give away certain beloved ones like my dog-eared copies of Lulu, A Garden of Verses, The Velveteen Rabbit. I cannot imagine passing down these precious stories in an e-reader. Rather, I imagine with delight, holding a grandchild on my lap, pointing to a stain and saying, “your father did that.” The thread of our family’s reading history unbroken.

Look, I’m no Luddite. I had a cell phone and email way before most of my crowd. I even created a character called Ajna-Mac in my first novel, The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond, a coming-of-age, supernatural mystery. The word ajna is Sanskrit for the third eye, and mac is short for the Macintosh computer that socially awkward Lexie Diamond considers to be her best friend. (I tried to interest Apple in cross-promotion but they never responded.)

In fact, I also love my Mac computer. I must because I spend copious amounts of time using them. And yet, I draw the line when it comes to reading e-books.

Can you possibly imagine the thrill I had when my editor at HarperCollins sent me an advance copy of Lexie Diamond? The dust jacket alone sent me into paroxysms of ecstasy, the graphic for each chapter heading, a fascination. So deep was this thrill that when I opened the package I didn’t make a sound, I simply stared at it, overcome with emotion.

I should add that the publisher of my first installment in my new series of adventure romance novels, Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls Part One), has released an e-version. I’m all for it, too: cheaper, no trees, no shipping.

It’s just that, well, the story is large and wildly romantic. I wonder if the e-version can contain the heady themes of racial oppression and environmental loss mixed with romance and self-discovery: In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden Newman‘s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest social class, the weak and ugly Pearls. Doomed unless she mates soon, Eden hopes a Coal from the dark-skinned ruling class will save her. But when she unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, perhaps mankind’s only hope, Eden is cast out — into the last patch of rainforest and also the arms of a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction to him. To survive, Eden must change — but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty — and of love. Along the way, she receives some beautiful insight from her virtually adopted aunt Emily Dickinson.

Revealing Eden was officially released on January 10, 2012. Advanced sales of the hardback version far exceed the e-version. I’m proud of both, really. But please, don’t ask me to give up my real books.

Bloggers: The Opinion Czars to Readers 150 150 admin

Bloggers: The Opinion Czars to Readers

Congratulations, your novel is published! Whether you joined the DIY movement or sold it to a publisher, you’re feeling great. Take a moment to enjoy this milestone.

Now, get ready to switch gears. You are no longer a writer but a marketing machine.

Wait, you say. Writers sit in ivory towers, churning out their next masterpiece. Unless you are a brand name author, you will soon realize that the publisher is counting on you to market your work. Especially, if you self-published.

As you consider your options, you may feel overwhelmed about where to allocate your time and money. Placing ads seems a logical choice. But ask most writers about the effectiveness of paid ads and you will hear nothing but disappointment.

The American Booksellers Association has 1,900 independent, brick-and-mortar members. Yep, that’s all. And although they have had an increase of 15.5% since January 2010, is there any community that hasn’t seen a longstanding bookstore bite the dust? Sadly, I experienced this firsthand: the local bookstores where I held book signings in 2007, the beloved Dutton’s in Brentwood and charming Village Books in the Pacific Palisades, no longer exist. Recently, my book launch for my new novel, Revealing Eden (Save The Pearls Part One), was held at Frank Pictures, an art gallery in Santa Monica. It was a great party, but I missed the company of other books.

And with the proliferation of self-published e-books, the market feels inundated; your fabulous book into which you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears, soon lost in the crowd.

So what’s a writer to do?

Coming from the world of indie filmmaking, I learned long ago that with limited resources the only way to reach your unique audience was through niche marketing. Unfortunately, if your book lacks an easily identifiable genre, your marketing job will be that much harder.

All you have to do is study the bestseller lists to see that, on average, only a handful are general fiction. God Bless Kathryn Strockett, the author of The Help, for beating those odds.

And yet, while the growing trend towards genre fiction has limited the marketplace for more inventive works, it also has produced a plethora of niche groups interested in those subjects. Storefront bookstores rely heavily on traditional pre-publication reviewers when determining which books to order. With the huge surge in online book buyers, the relevance of those reviewers’ opinion has diminished — and will continue to do so.

Do you really think any teens who bought The Hunger Games through Amazon.com cared what School Library Journal had to say about it? More likely, those buyers follow one of the many blogs that cater to Young Adult books, or particularly, dystopian fiction and post apocalyptic books.

And that is why niche bloggers are the new opinion czars for readers.

Reaching out to these bloggers simply requires time and patience. Each has a different set of requirements: some will add a Q&A, others, an online chat, or perhaps, a book giveaway. And unlike the nameless façade presented by the traditional reviewers, most likely, you will find passionate readers who are thrilled to receive a copy of your book and post a review on their blogs. Despite the conduit of e-mail, the one-on-one interaction that these blogs provide writers and bloggers feels fresh and intimate like a visit on a Southern porch!

In 2007, when TeensReadToo.com gave The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond a Five-Star, Must Read review, I was thrilled, but made sure to include their quote after Kirkus Reviews and the Recommendation from The Center of Children’s Books.

Today, my main approach hinges on appealing to bloggers! To date, I have sent out over 60 copies of Revealing Eden (Save The Pearls Part One), my new fantasy romance novel, a veritable pastiche of genres, at their request. I deeply care what they think. And I have been richly rewarded for the attention I’ve paid to them.

Before Revealing Eden was officially released until January 10, 2012, it already received rave reviews on several blogs as well as many posts on Amazon, all of them enthusiastic.

Live To Readhighly recommended it with Five Stars to young adult and adult readers, and included a lengthy author Q&A.

The Bookshelf gave Five Stars for a “fantastic read, I recommend everyone to check out this book!” Amanda’s Writings “Revealing Eden was a great read. The end left me hanging, and I can’t wait to read the next book!” And Books Obsession: “This was a great book to the start of a unique series.” And I have begun a series of online chats: Wednesday the 14th, I chatted with followers of YA Bound, which was an amazingly rewarding experience!

Being directly connected to these lively communities of readers is a writer’s dream. Many of these clever bloggers also post their reviews onto Goodreads.com, one of the largest sites for readers, thereby widening the scope of their influence.

And what has did it cost in dollars? Shipping costs and a discounted copy of my book.
Just as the Internet has provided direct avenues to consumers in almost every area from buying real estate to testing your DNA, authors can connect to readers through blog. The world of opinion has come to roost on niche bloggers to the benefit of readers everywhere, and writers, too.

Enter Eden Newman’s Online Fantasy World 150 150 admin

Enter Eden Newman’s Online Fantasy World

In 2007, inspired by a news story about a book trailer posted on YouTube by author Michael Connelly, I created a short video for my debut novel, The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond, a young adult supernatural thriller. At the time, the idea was edgy, so much so that my marketing representative at HarperCollins had never heard of YouTube.

When it came time this summer to discuss how to market my new dystopian novel, Save The Pearls Part One Revealing Eden, a Young Adult fantasy/adventure romance, a book trailer seemed so yesterday. In an age when the phone in your pocket provides more resources and virtual experiences than someone living only two generations ago might have had during an entire lifetime, what could we do to appeal to readers?

We created a virtual world at SaveThePearls.com where the lead character, Eden Newman, dramatizes her predicament in a series of short videos.

The actress, Claire Pfister, a real find with the right amount of edge and appeal, is the perfect Eden Newman. Stunningly beautiful as she is, in the post-apocalyptic world of the book, she’d be considered ugly and oppressed.

Because resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, the racial paradigm has been turned upside down. Eden’s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest social class, a Pearl. Doomed unless she soon mates, Eden hopes a Coal from the dark-skinned ruling class will save her. But who will want her when she has a mate-rate of only 15%?

And so Eden presents her plight at SaveThePearls.com, sometimes wearing her natural look, or in dark makeup to make her appear like a Coal. She invites others to follow along, even to help her save the Pearls. We witness her fear when visited by an Ethics Officer who warns her that her time to mate will soon expire.

And then there is the recorded visit from a handsome Coal, Jamal, whom Eden secretly dates. She shares with us her desperate desire that he will save her though she knows the odds are against her.

Interested viewers quickly have begun to post their own videos, and like Eden, pitch themselves as a great possible mate. On the site, they receive dating advice on how to improve their rating, or deal with interracial dating in particular. There is even a commercial advertising Midnight Luster, a darkening cream that Pearls can use to cover their hideous white skin.

The ease with which viewers have embraced this multidimensional site is a natural extension of our familiarity with the Internet. Online, time and space are relative factors that we arrange to suit our interactions. Is Eden Newman real, or is she a character in a game?

At TheNewWorldChronicle.com, news articles have been appearing about missing Pearls or other frightening incidents that happen in Eden’s world. Everything conspires to create a real character in real time, if only in the viewer’s mind.

Finally, another desperate Pearl contacts Eden, begging her to reveal all to an important source before it’s too late. We watch in anticipation as Eden walks through the shadowy underground world and, looking anxiously over her shoulder, knocks at an unmarked door. A woman, Victoria Foyt, answers. She wastes no time in questioning Eden. “Are you willing to talk?”

In fact, Eden has a dangerous secret to share. “A way for Pearls to survive, Coals, too.” Her father is involved in a highly experimental experiment, one funded by a daring Coal titan whom Eden despises, despite her overwhelming attraction.

When Eden makes her last appeal to viewers on SaveThePearls.com, it seems only natural that she asks you to read her story: Save The Pearls Part One Revealing Eden. In the novel, which is being released on the site, as well as through other booksellers, including Amazon.com, she promises to share her secrets, apocalyptic fears and romantic hopes. And she’s counting on you to spread the word. Before it’s too late.

And, how can you quit her now after you will have shared so much, and been an integral part of her journey?

The online campaign is not a teaser, but an extension of Eden’s world. It joins a community of those who care about the state of the environment, or fear for their own romantic dreams in a loveless world.

Only those who continue ahead and read Revealing Eden will learn how she unwittingly compromises her father’s secret experiment, is thrust into the last patch of rainforest, and into the arms of a powerful, beastly man. And ultimately, how Eden fights to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of true love.

Fundamentally, the way we write love stories hasn’t changed much since the time of Jane Austen. And yet, the way we reach our readers must be as different as riding in a horse-driven carriage is to a quiet spin in an electric vehicle.