Saturday, September 30, 2017

I--not my books--have been "Reviewed"

This week (Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2017), I am the subject of (or possibly victim of?) The Review Blog's interview between Diana Milne and an author. 
This is where you learn all my deepest, most closely held secrets that Diana skewered and pulled out of my soul. Prepare yourself for what may come.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Charlemagne commands that you hire an editor

Admonito Generalis, Charlemagne (789AD)

“…Be sure to amend carefully [that means edit] in every monastery and bishop’s house the psalms, notes, chants, calendar material, grammars, and the epistles and gospels. For often enough there are those who want to call upon God well, but because of poor texts they do it poorly.” 

Here's an experienced editor! 
Christy K Robinson, the Editornado
Literary, commercial, and educational editing, proofing, and writing.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

REVIEW: The Savage Apostle

I invite you to learn more about King Philip's War by reading The Savage Apostle, by John B. Kachuba. You can access the Amazon sales page and the other reviews by clicking the title hotlink.

The Savage Apostle, by John B. Kachuba
(Review by Christy K Robinson)

The Savage Apostle, named after John Eliot, the Congregational (Puritan) pastor to the Native Americans (“savages”) of New England, is the first historical novel by author John B. Kachuba. The “novel” genre assignment seems wrong, when the events and people were real and documented, but the narrative follows the thoughts and speech of two primary figures: Rev. John Eliot (1604-1690) and the Wampanoag sachem Metacom (1638-1676), also known as King Philip. Historical fiction can breathe new life into dusty history, when thought through as carefully as it was by author Kachuba.

The book begins with the musings of Eliot, who mourns the death of the Native American Sassamon, who was a Christian convert. Sassamon had been murdered and dumped in a frozen pond, perhaps by someone of his own tribe, or by the English settlers of Plymouth Colony. In 1675, tensions were high between the natives of New England, and the thousands of English families pushing them back into the wilderness. When the first settlers arrived in the 1620s and 1630s, they found whole villages made ghost towns by disease. They purchased land from native sachems, but by 1636, tensions broke out in the Pequot War, in which the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay militias massacred thousands and sold women and children captives to the Caribbean slave trade (because they had a naughty habit of running away from their “servanthood” in New England). As tens of thousands of settlers arrived in the Great Migration, the various tribes suffered encroachment on their lands and waters, destruction of their crops by English cattle, and overhunting of fowl and deer. Over the next decades, even as John Eliot tried to convert them to Christianity and “civilization,” they lost civil rights and were treated disrespectfully by the second generation of colonists.

In the book, Metacom has equal time with John Eliot, as they both realize that war will come to New England, no matter how hard they work to avoid it. They both envision innocent deaths and burned-out villages. Eliot wonders if he has failed his God when he sees the “Praying Indians” deserting their villages ahead of the war to return to their tribes. He agonizes over the will of God: why did God seem to direct his missionary work, and then deny Eliot, in his old age, the fulfillment of happy, fulfilled Christian converts? Metacom wants only to die peacefully as an old man, with his children and grandchildren nearby, and go to the afterlife to be with his father and brother, but his advisors are bent on avenging the executions of the three Pokanoket men who were falsely accused and falsely convicted of murdering Sassamon.

Author Kachuba’s depiction of the exhumed body of Sassamon was (as I imagine) quite realistic, but so was his depiction of sudden emotion from Rev. Eliot, looking on the decomposing body of his friend and convert. “From where I now stood, trembling, I had an unobstructed view of the corpse, a view I would gladly have given up so as to have Sassamon’s memory from happier times live on within me… I had to close my eyes for several moments to calm my wild heart. My knees shook and I thought I should fall.”

I’ve read several books set in the time before and during King Philip’s War (among them Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding Brown; Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick; Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks), and have seen descriptions of Eliot and his ministry, and the English versus Indian conflict from several outside angles. It’s a new dimension to read about the precursors to war through the eyes of Eliot and Metacom, who perhaps had the best perspective.

As an author and a student of 17th-century New England history, I found the personal narratives fascinating. The story is so believable as told here, that I’m tempted to think this is what must have happened. As a genealogy enthusiast, I knew some of the peripheral players in the story, and though they weren’t covered in detail in the book (which was proper), it drove me back to my files to compare information. And it fits! Those dusty ancestors contributed to the story in my head. Dr. Fuller administered a potion which may have killed Metacom’s brother. Others lived heroically through the atrocities of King Philip’s War, ferried colonists from grave danger to safety at Newport, or, like one great-great, didn’t survive, when he was taken captive and marched to Canada, where he was burned at the stake.

There were a few confusing bits in The Savage Apostle: Metacom’s flashbacks to his experiences with father and brother took us back about 13 years but didn’t explain the timehop. What was the medieval law of cruentation? And the Pokanoket name of Montaup (Mount Hope, Bristol, Rhode Island) and other places could have been set for the reader who is not from New England, by a map or two. Sure, I can Google them, but that would mean getting out of bed where I’m reading in the wee hours!

The book contains a reading list and discussion guide, and would be appropriate reading for high school and college history students, as well as history enthusiasts of all ages. The few descriptions of violence (at the very end of the book) are necessary to a book about the prelude to war. The physical book is well made and the text is easy on the eyes. The cover image appears to be an aerial view of a landscape with water and clouds in the distance. The cover texture feels a bit like peachskin.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Penny-wise and £ foolish

© 2016 by Christy K Robinson

Arizona taxpayers will pay $400,000 to reprint and re-mail a ballot because it wasn't edited before it was published.
Ballot screw-up to cost taxpayers $400,000
by E.J. Montini, Arizona Republic columnist
I type for a living, and I have made more mistakes than you could imagine. Or maybe you could, since so many of you generously point out each one to me. Thank you.
Word omissions. Grammar errors. Misspellings. Sometimes an errant clause gets cut and pasted into the wrong spot. It goes on and on.
The landscape traversed by a news columnist is a linguistic minefield and my life a series of explosions.
Still, I don’t believe that any of my errors have cost my employer $400,000.
Apparently, that is what occurred when Maricopa County elections officials printed the same Spanish-language title over the text of Prop 124, which deals with pension reform,  as the title of Prop 123, which deals with educations funding.
The texts of the propositions are correct, but having the same title on both can be confusing.

By the way, these were the same Maricopa County elections officials who tried to save some bucks by reducing the number of polling stations in the March 2016 presidential preference primary from nearly 300 to 60-some, which created five-hour lines to vote at precincts that ran out of ballots and had misclassified voter registrations by the thousands. Lawsuits are pending.

Penny-wise and pound (£) foolish.
Stingy about small expenditures and extravagant with large ones... This phrase alludes to British currency, in which a pound was once worth 240 pennies, or pence, and is now worth 100 pence. The phrase is also occasionally used for being very careful about unimportant matters and careless about important ones. It was used in this way by Joseph Addison in The Spectator (1712): “A woman who will give up herself to a man in marriage where there is the least Room for such an apprehension ... may very properly be accused ... of being penny wise and pound foolish.” [c. 1600 ]
City, county, and state governments release booklets, brochures, ballots and voter guides, legal notices, and many other documents that need editing. They may be well-written, but a writer is intimately connected with the meaning they're projecting, and will often overlook a spelling or punctuation error because they're blind to it.
A document edited in Track Changes mode

Every writer needs a proofreader and/or editor. But government agencies, especially, need editors. They're quick to jump on the "cut big government" bandwagon, but once they've fired every editor or person with institutional memory, they screw up and have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to rectify the problem.

For the cost of a contracted editor, or a full-time employee at $70,000 with benefits, government agencies, universities, and corporations could have security from silly mistakes and bureaucratic messes. The editor will more than pay for her own salary, in savings of money, redux, and embarrassment. Now that is a conservative fiscal policy to get behind. Don't wait until you have to face angry constituents--hire an editor now!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Today's lesson, boys and girls: HOMOPHONES

Not this kind of homophone!
 © 2016 Christy K Robinson

Oooh, I said “homo.” Don’t call the American Family Association to make war on me. Homophones are a type of homonym: words that sound alike but have different meanings.

In the comments on an article in The Nation, one commenter implored the author, "Katrina [vanden Heuvel], I besiege you..." 

(Besiege/beseech, whatever.) 

Beseeching money
verb: beseech; 3rd person present: beseeches; past tense: besought; past participle: besought; past tense: beseeched; past participle: beseeched; gerund or present participle: beseeching
  1. ask (someone) urgently and fervently to do something; implore; entreat.
"they beseeched him to stay"
implore, beg, entreat, importune, plead with, appeal to, exhort, call on, supplicate, importune, pray to, ask, request, petition;

verb: besiege; 3rd person present: besieges; past tense: besieged; past participle: besieged; gerund or present participle: besieging
Beseiging the castle
  1. surround (a place) with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender; lay siege to.
"the guerrillas continued to besiege other major cities to the north"
lay siege to, beleaguer, blockade, surround;
"the Romans besieged Carthage"
    • crowd around oppressively; surround and harass.
"she spent the whole day besieged by newsmen"
surround, mob, crowd around, swarm around, throng around, encircle More
"fans besieged his hotel"
"guilt besieged him"
    • be inundated by large numbers of requests or complaints.
"the television station was besieged with calls"
overwhelm, inundate, deluge, flood, swamp, snow under;
"he was besieged with requests"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

REVIEW: The Snow White Gift, by DM Denton

The Snow White Gift is a
99-cent Kindle short story. Click the
highlighted title.

5.0 out of 5 stars Short story is nice introduction to author's longer works, December 17, 2015

(Christy K Robinson)
This review is from: The Snow White Gift (Kindle Edition)
The Snow White Gift, historical fiction set in the Great Depression of the 20th century, resonates today, in the fallout of the Great Recession and income inequality. But the short story is not as much about making do with few financial resources, as finding *human* resources to work together to brighten our own and others' lives. We need to open our eyes and hearts to those who we can help and those who can help us. The meaning of gift-giving at Christmas is not the "stuff," not the toys, not the big-ticket items Amazon dangles before our eyes, but the relationships of family and friends that are enriched by working, playing, feasting, and worshiping together. That's the sub-text I saw in The Snow White Gift: family relationships in inglorious reality.

The scenes were beautifully set, and the story can be read in 90-120 minutes. It's suitable for any age, but I suppose most interest would lie with middle-aged and older readers whose parents or grandparents lived through the Depression and communicated those can-do values that we all need to remember.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of The Snow White Gift in exchange for an honest review. This is the first narrative I've read by DM Denton, but it won't be the last.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

REVIEW--Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

5.0 out of 5 stars 17th-century abduction, slavery, and PTSD, November 23, 2015

(Christy K Robinson)
Verified Purchase
This review is from: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America (Paperback)
Flight of the Sparrow
at Amazon
 I first ran across the Mary Rowlandson story when I was researching my three books on William and Mary Barrett Dyer (two were historical novels that were light on fiction and heavy on fact, and the third was nonfiction). Mary's abduction from Lancaster, Massachusetts Bay Colony took place in February 1675. She was separated from her also-captive pre-teen children, and her six-year-old died of a gunshot wound. Mary was a slave to Weetamoo, a female sachem related to "King Philip" of the 1675-76 King Philip's War. Mary was marched around New England in the depths of a Little Ice Age winter and spring with her own bullet wound and heavy heart at the loss of her children, her sister, and her home and lifestyle, before being redeemed from captivity about three months later.

The original Rowlandson book is moralistic and rather stiff, as you'd expect from the Puritan Congregationalists of the era. But in Flight of the Sparrow, author Amy Belding Brown gives much thought to the background of the story, and brings Mary Rowlandson to life. Belding Brown must needs fictionalize the story somewhat, but I know from my own research and writing experience that when you spend so much time with the subjects of your books, you enter into their thoughts. Belding Brown was able to see Mary Rowlandson's traumatic experiences and the thoughts and actions which saved her life, and then deeply affected Rowlandson's return to "civilization" and normalcy--and perhaps resulted in a loss of her faith in humanity and God.

There was an element of 21st-century feminism and abolitionism which Rowlandson probably would not have dreamed of, let alone spoken, but it makes the book approachable for most readers who are unfamiliar with 17th-century religious beliefs. In her fiction writing, Belding Brown deftly takes the reader through what must surely have been Stockholm Syndrome and PTSD. Rowlandson was dragged through the wilderness both physically and spiritually and I found the deterioration of her religious beliefs to be believable. And readers are brought close, through 21st-century fiction, to what was likely very close to the truth.

The book was beautifully written, and described the environment, customs, and lifestyles of the English settlers as they crashed against the Native American tribes in the 17th century. The contrasts of silence and sound, sophistication and savagery, love and indifference, and many other conditions we take for granted, were striking. The one negative (for me) was that Flight was written in present tense. It's a device that's done more often these days, but it's not my favorite because it bumps me too often into the present. If that's something that bothers you, don't let it stop you buying and enjoying Flight of the Sparrow.

Both Mary Rowlandson's original book (public domain, available free on Google Books and several platforms) and Belding Brown's Flight of the Sparrow are appropriate for ages teens through adult. There is some violence depicted, in the sacking of Lancaster and throughout Rowlandson's slavery experience in the wilderness, but it's probably realistic and certainly not gratuitous or salacious.

If you're a descendant of Mary Rowlandson, you should read this historical novel to better understand the mysteries of 17th-century religious belief and culture. You'll think better of Rowlandson than you would from reading the journal alone. If you're not a descendant, then read Flight of the Sparrow to learn the strength of character our early-American ancestors had to have to survive the ordeal of settling a wilderness--and building a nation.