Paris still alive and rich in culture, despite the attempts of those who seek to destroy…

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Last Friday’s events brought about a senseless waste of life, as well as much pain and trauma to those caught up in an unimaginable horrific situation, as well as leaving many others in deep shock, but if it was the intention to try to destroy the rich culture and the desire to share creativity in Paris,they failed.

Last night I was lucky enough to participate in a wonderful typically Parisian cultural event, called “Paris Lit Up”. Musicians, poets and writers all shared their feelings and ideas. We had honest accounts of failed love affairs, an interesting account of what Paris was like in the 1980s, when smoking was permitted almost everywhere. There was a rendering of a gospel song, done acapella style. There was wit, repartee and banter between participants, while at the same time some chose to share their thoughts on what happened at the end of last week. The shadow of last Friday still remains and it etched on the minds of many, but Paris retains its characteristics, a city brimming with culture and creativity, which so many love and cherish.

If you have ever lived in Paris or stayed for a long time, you will know what Paris has to offer.  We can’t change what happened last Friday, but creative people can stand up and say...we’re not going to change our lifestyle, because of people with twisted minds who want to destroy so many things we hold true.

Sing your songs, write your poems, enjoy the Paris night life…

 

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Merciless Reviewers, an article every author should read.

Axeman

You have always loved reading books and writing stories. You have a mind brimming with ideas for writing stories, constantly turning in your head. You find the courage to start formulating your ideas. You have been inspired by a few favorite authors, you have in mind the genre you are going to work in, be it romance, horror, science fiction…

You soon have a body of work ready for the world at large…all well and good. You get your nearest and dearest to read your manuscript, they offer words of encouragement. A close friend or two does the same. A close friend is a great graphic designer and has come up with a great design for the cover of the book. All well and good. After much work on your part your book is finally published…In celebration you open a bottle of wine.
Now you need readers and publicity to bring attention to your work. Part of this is to get reviews, so you subscribe to Goodreads, a site that will connect you to readers. On top of this you advertise the fact that you are searching for reviews. You are naturally proud of your work, it was done with good intention. All well and good…and then…

The hatchet man steps in. You sent him a copy to review in good faith. It seems his it is his intent to verbally pulverize your book, with as much a bile as he can muster. His sadistic, as brutally direct as he could possibly be. He has sharpened the knives and planted them right in your heart. You get a mandatory one star for your efforts (you spent hours writing, re-writing, editing and polishing, proof reading, scrutinizing every sentence for any flaws or errors.

He does not write a crisp short paragraph expressing his dislike for your work, he gone to great lengths to document all the failings he has found in your work, while mercilessly damaging your fledgling reputation, beyond repair (or so he hopes). Perhaps he is going through the male menopause, perhaps he is psychologically unbalanced, you will never know, he could be living thousands of miles from you, in another continent…Whatever he is determined to crucify your book and his review is now firmly etched on Goodreads for all to see. When you read the review for the first time you are both mystified and horrified. It is like getting a tax demand out of the blue for an amount of money you have no chance of paying back. You are now in a state of shock, that sweet wine you tasted when your book was first published now has bitter taste. Your work has been sullied, you feel violated. His words appear to be aimed to cause maximum hurt, and the reviewer has succeeded in this objective. Even other reviews of a much more positive nature seem empty now that you have been overwhelmed by this dark force.

The hatchet man could have sent you a curt e mail, to the effect that he was unprepared to post a review…that might of hurt, but not half as much as this…Some reviewers don’t post, if they think a book does not merit three stars. It could be argued that once you publish your work and engage with reviewers you should be able to take on board any harsh criticism that comes your way, that you can’t expect any sugar-coated reviews, reviews are supposed to be honest. At the same time it is unacceptable for fired up reviewers to use a new author on the scene as a kind of punch bag, to vent your spleen and spread their poison. We have to wonder why people take pleasure in decimating a writer’s work? It seems the same mentality as an internet troll.

While reviewing another author’s work I was drawn to two reviews of the distinctly“hatchet man” nature. A Neanderthal looking man seemed to delight in the use of the word “fuck”. “Who the fuck cares? ” he says laying into the fact that the author has nine pages devoted to dedications etc. He then goes into one attack after another. Another word he is prone to use is the word “retarded” a word where I come is a word considered not exactly politically correct, the Neanderthal seems to love using it. I thought this word was an insult mostly used in the playground by rather nasty children looking for the maximum effect…

On the other side of the coin, one writer namely a Richard Brittain, who published work on Wattpad (a facility for writers to get feedback on their work) took the extreme measure of hitting a teenager over the head with a wine bottle as retribution for a negative review. He tracked down the negative reviewer, went to her work place and applied his crude form of revenge on the unsuspecting reviewer.

I would not recommend a Richard Brittain type approach to dealing with reviewers.  I would say that reviewers should choose their words carefully and should not try to kill off aspiring authors before they have managed to bloom.  And Mr Neanderthal, stay off the “fuck” word, it’s really not too original, and you really show yourself up…are you for real?

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The Horrors of War

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We can only imagine what it is like to be part of a war. I am luckily to have spent most of my life untouched by war. It is true that when I was in my late teens there was the Falklands War. My brother in law was sent off, as part of the “task force”. It was very surreal, Britain fighting Argentina, over some islands most people in Britain had never heard of. Thankfully my brother in law came back, despite sustaining an injury, to his eyes. He was no longer able to be a helicopter pilot due to his impaired eyesight, but at least he came back alive and was able to be a parent to his three young children. My father was a prisoner of war for almost the entire duration of the second world war. How much he was scarred from the this experience it is hard to calculate, he was reticent to speak about this, it was a part of his life he wanted set apart, conceal. The psychological collateral of war is enormous. The things soldiers and civilians drawn into a conflict see undoubtedly leave their mark and are imprinted on the minds of those who witness unimaginable horror before their eyes.

I was brought up on a diet of war films, that were essentially propaganda. The hero always survived or if not died heroically, but was killed in a wholesome way, a clean shot in the chest. They were war films without the gruesome reality of war, showing soldiers going about their duty, as they should. There must have been a few films that were realistic. It was a time when a boy wanted a toy gun, pretended to a soldier, without being aware of the true impact of war on he lives of those involved.

When “Searching for Private Ryan” came along, war films took a new direction. It is the start of the film for me that is the most meaningful, the rest of the film does not have its intensity. The film has been criticized for all its mistakes, inaccuracies and contradictions, put to one side all of this and the first half an hour of the film has a great pertinence.
Seeing the limbs of friends and comrades being blown off, bullets whizzing past you, the noise, men screaming in agony, men drowning, all this unimaginable carnage going on all around you, is as close as we can get to trying to understand what it is like…to a certain extent at least. Those who had been through the experience, World War II veterans, were of the opinion that the film was the most realistic depiction of combat they had ever seen. Some found it too realistic , veterans of D-Day and Vietnam left theaters rather than finish watching the opening scene depicting the Normandy invasion. The film even meant that visits to posttraumatic stress disorder counselors rose in number after the film’s release, and many counselors advised “‘more psychologically vulnerable'” veterans to avoid watching it.

Funnily enough the last in the series of “Blackadder” in which Rowan Atkinson stars as a captain in the horrific first world war, underlies the stupidity of war. Idiotic aristocratic generals sending young men in their prime to certain deaths, as it was sure they would be  massacred by machine gun fire. The sentiment in Blackadder influenced a passage in one of my stories called “Blind Shot”.

It is a story about a man who is blinded during a war. It is a story about paranoia. Without the man’s use of his eyes, his imagination begins to get hold. The man who is married has an affair while recovering in hospital with one of the nurses. The nurse reads him letters, supposedly sent by his wife, telling him she is going to have a baby, but the father is another man. The man is not only traumatized by the war but also is afraid of going back to his wife. Here is an excerpt in which an aristocratic General talks to the main character

It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but it proved to be
just another in a long list of bloody transactions by power-hungry
politicians, money-grubbing industrialists, and incompetent generals,
which led to pointless casualties. He’d barely arrived in the trenches
before being ordered by his commanding officer, a man more versed in
killing stags on a Scottish heath than military tactics, to send his
company of minimally trained adolescents to their deaths. He’d fared
luckier than most, or so he was told. The medics found him face down
in the mud, barely breathing, and dragged him back to friendly lines.
They’d patched up his flesh wounds and applied the usual
psychological salve to his fractured mind. The only thing they couldn’t
fix was his eyes. The gas had left him blind.
His unit, due to be issued gas masks, had been rushed to the front
without them in a moment of desperation. The general, drawing first
from a cigar wedged between his fat fingers and then from a flask of
brandy, had shared with his captain a few words of encouragement
before issuing a preposterous order: “They won’t need gas masks. The
young lads are fit and healthy. If they have their wits about them, they
should be able to dodge bullets or whatever is thrown in their
direction,” adding in a more menacing tone, “and if they don’t follow
their orders and do their duty, you’ll all be court-martialed and shot.
Better to die an unsung hero than live a coward!” he chortled,
dismissing the captain.

As Edwin Starr said..

War, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

Oh, war, I despise
‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

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Sex Robots are for real!

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Sometimes authors must have outlandish ideas, or so they think, that turn out to be not too far from reality. Take one of my short stories called “Body Parts”. It is about a rich industrialist who goes to factory to get an android woman assembled. As the title suggests he gets to choose different body parts. The programmed woman will theoretically be the perfect wife, adhering to all his requirements, the problem is though, he gets more than he bargains for and gets an android that can think for herself. The story was inspired by the film the Stepford wives, about perfectly compliant wives.

Kane stiffened, preparing to give his wife-to-be additional
instructions. “Now, woman,” he growled, “I like my house run neatly
and efficiently. I like my women easy to manage, and to follow my
instructions to the letter. To the letter, do you understand? As to my
sexual requirements,” he paused, continuing with particular gravity, “I
prefer once a week, sometimes twice, depending on my inclination. I
generally like ‘missionary position,’ but I am not impartial to others for
variety.”
Electra continued staring at him, as if processing his demands.
“You will be a compliant hostess,” Kane continued, “politely
socializing with my business acquaintances, both male and female, but
you must never be flirtatious. I won’t stand for that.”
Electra continued to stare fixedly at him.
“I expect perfect manners. You will be civil and accommodating
to me at all times.” Kane turned to Banshaw, “This isn’t too sudden or
difficult for her, is it Banshaw?”
“Not at all, Mr. Kane,” replied Banshaw adding dutifully, “our
products are one hundred percent reliable and carry a lifetime
guarantee.

The age of sex robots is not so far away. Adrian David Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing at London’s City University tells us “I believe it is going to be perfectly normal that people will be friends with robots, and that people will have sex with robots,” says Cheok. “All media will touch humanity.”

Apparently…There is already a market for realistic-looking life-sized dolls made from a durable high elastometer silicone material. Female dolls either have fixed or removable vaginas and cost anything from $5,000-$8,000. But they don’t do anything. They are unresponsive…but not for long…In time, another Professor Levy predicts, it will be quite normal for people to buy robots as companions and lovers. “I believe that loving sex robots will be a great boon to society,” he says. “There are millions of people out there who, for one reason or another, cannot establish good relationships.”

Maybe my story Body Parts is not so far-fetched. When will this happen?
Levy says… “I think we’re talking about the middle of the century, if you are referring to a robot that many people would find appealing as a companion, lover, or possible spouse.”
The researchers from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, predicted that robots will replace prostitutes by 2050. “The futuristic scenario of sex tourism suggests android prostitutes will be the in thing, eliminating the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections in an industry free from sex slavery,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

What does this say about the human race?
Would you prefer knowing you are engaged in sexual activity with a real person, rather than a synthetic being?

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