|3 OctOgre 2002|
I've just been updating the Internet Publishing survey and have some thoughts. I do my best to represent publishers fairly, but naturally some don't like it when I run negative comments. Because some publishers are better than others and I want writers to know what's what, I give what information I have, taking the claims on their sites on faith until there is evidence otherwise. But there's a problem: when a writer accuses a publisher of something bad, and I run that information, and then the publisher says it isn't so, whom am I to believe? I know some publishers do screw writers, but I also know that some writers get mad at publishers and badmouth them, not always with sufficient reason. When I was starting out as a novelist in the 1960's one publisher cheated me, and blacklisted me when I protested, and other publishers and even a writer's organization tacitly sided with the errant publisher. I survived those lean years with a militant attitude, and today have the will and the means to take it to any publisher or organization that tries anything similar, and have done so more than once. So this is no academic issue to me; my humor about being the Ogre becomes serious in this particular arena. But I do know of cases where publishers have been wronged by writers. I am not pro or anti publisher, I am pro-truth, fairness, decency, the American Way and all that. One reason I maintain the Survey is that I am now pretty well immune to blacklisting, so can tell the truth without suffering the whistle-blower fate. Since few writers can do that, and fewer yet care to, I believe I am doing a genuine service to writers, and indeed, to publishing, just by doing and being what I am. But what about when I'm not sure of the truth? I don't want my Survey to become a place where anyone with a private grudge can unfairly damage someone else's reputation; I've been on the receiving end of that process too, and am still falsely accused of certain nefarious doings. So I don't want to do it to others. At issue this time are three Internet publishers in question: Book Locker, Crystal Dreams, and PageFree. See my entries in the Survey. My impression is that the first is arrogant but legitimate, the second had real problems but is cleaning them up, and the third is probably a victim of badmouthing. In sum, you can afford to do business with any of them. Rest assured that I will continue to call a spade a spade, if I can see it clearly, on these and others.
This column is being done a bit early, because our WebMistress is skipping the country in early OctOgre, but will be back on schedule hereafter. Xanth #26 Up in a Heaval will be appearing in hardcover about the time this column does; it's normal Xanth, about a young man who doesn't know he doesn't exist. Surprise Golem, she with the many one-time-only talents, is now fourteen and will not be pleased, as she falls in love with him. Meanwhile #25 Swell Foop will be out in paperback. Those who want yet more Xanth will be pleased to know that the motion picture option on the series has now been signed; that means they have a year or more to decide whether to make it into a movie. That decision is called exercising the option, and few options are actually exercised, but we'll see.
I get invited to participate in assorted things along the way. If they involve traveling any distance I normally turn them down, as I'm not keen on traveling. I trace that to the fact that I traveled Europe before I was six years old, then came to America and never saw England again. So for me, psychologically, a journey may have no return. But my sister, with the same background, loves to travel and does it all the time. So much for armchair psychology. But invitations that don't involve travel I consider more positively. I was invited to contribute a short essay to the volume My America, edited by Hugh Downs, commemorating the horror of 9-11-2001, to be published exactly one year after it. I pondered, and did so. I heard no more, but then received a copy of the volume, and lo, I am one of 150 notables represented in it. No, I don't know how I rated the invitation; I believe I am the only SF/Fantasy writer there, and none of the top ten most popular novelists are there. Others are former presidents, state governors, company executives, award winning scientists, and all manner of other famous folk. They are arranged alphabetically by author, and it's surprising how well that works. You'd think there would be a certain sameness, and there is some, but also fair variety, as each does his/her take on the subject. I conclude "I'm an immigrant. I'm a writer. I'm American." A local reviewer in the newspaper says that more than 150 books on 9-11 have been published this year, and names a number, but this one didn't make the list. I was also invited to contribute my epitaph to a collection of those. No, I don't think the invite was by a hopeful critic. It's just what I would like said about me, when that time comes. That one concludes "Tried to do the decent thing." It's surprising how often that generates negative responses.
We saw some movies. Not many, because my movie-freak daughter has been too busy working at her jute mill of a newspaper to come out and haul us to the theater, and our natural state is vegetative. You know how it is with senior citizens. But we did see Signs, about those nefarious crop circles, and XXX, a slam-bang action adventure, my kind of junk. MOVIES UNLIMITED had a ten dollar a video closeout sale on some items, so I ordered eleven of those, but by that time I was writing Xanth on a deadline and haven't had time to watch. Come DisMember I'll catch up. I have a DVD player now, but haven't quite gotten the hang of it; it plays for a while, then locks up. So that, too must wait. A couple of videos we did watch: A Chorus Line, and Hair. It's surprising how good some of these classics are. I hadn't seen the latter before, and was caught up in the horror of the conclusion, where the free-soul draft-card-burner gets hauled away to die in Vietnam.
My MoNsTeR Linux computer system, assembled by Griz Inabnit in Oregon, finally arrived, and my new word processor, OpenOffice. I'm still breaking them in, as I struggle to keep my writing schedule, but do have impressions. First, the hardware: this system is designed to be fairly crashproof. It has two hard disks that operate in tandem, recording the same thing, so that if one crashes the other has everything. It's fairly fast, about 1.4 G I think. It has KDE 3, a more advanced interface than the KDE 1 I was using before. It also has a flat-screen monitor, about two inches thick, the kind you could hang like a picture on the wall. The software includes the KDE Konqueror, which is like the Windows Explorer in that it's a file handler as well as an Internet browser, and it works well throughout. I have several email handlers to choose from, and tried them: Mozilla, which I think is a kind of cheese, refuses to recognize my Internet server, so I can't use it. KMail makes me think of a department store chain; it's okay, and I thought it would be the one, but Griz recommended I try Ximian Evolution, so I did, and it turned out to have superior spelling and Find features, so I'm using it. Unfortunately it sends and receives with a single button and you can't separate them. That's like having a cloaca, a common orifice for mouth and anus; most mail handlers separate them for sanitary reasons. It means that if I'm typing a letter to someone, and remember that one is due in that might affect it, I can't check my incoming, because Evolution will send out my half finished letter the moment I connect. So I have to crank up KMail instead to do that check. What were the geeks thinking of? This isn't Evolution, it's Regression. For going online I use the RedHat dialer; I think of it as the HeadRat. I used to use KPPP, which I think stands for Kiss My Personal Posterior Protocol, but sometimes it gets balky. But mainly there's the word processing. I've been using StarOffice (SO) 5.2 and like it well enough. OpenOffice (OO) derives from it, with mixed result. SO files have the suffix .sdw, which I make out to be Same Dull Wife; OO file are .sxw, which would be SeXy Wench. .sdw files run twice the size of Windows Word .doc files, which is a nuisance when I have a novel too big for one backup disk; I have to convert it to .doc format or storage. But .sxw files compress to half the size of .doc files, so should be able to back up even my biggest novels on single 3.5 inch disks. So SeXy Wench keeps her size down; I love that. The screen display of OO is beautiful; the fonts are smooth instead of looking like dot matrix dots: sexy curves. And it has a block cursor for overstrike mode. I have wanted that for over a decade, ever since I lost it along with my file-saved indication coming to Windows. The thing is, I move around in my text, and texts don't necessarily hold their places well, so my cursor gets lost. I want it visible. A blinking block is visible. I love to see it winking at me. I also like knowing which files have and have not been saved; I wrote, way back when, to MacroHard and told them I could see no legitimate reason for them to conceal that information from the user. They did not answer. That's guilt by default, by no means the only example. I also like having every file with a different background color of my choice, so I know instantly what I'm in. OO is strongly file oriented; in fact when you close the last file, OO is gone. There is no background framework; the individual files are all, each with its own set defaults. You can send one file to a different Desktop, or scatter them around the system; there is no"there" there. More fun; I did this to move my Internet Publishing Survey file to the desktop where I went online, so I could make my entry as I checked a publisher, without my other files cluttering the scene This makes for much more efficient updating. Of course I didn't have the most recent Windows; maybe it has caught up on some of these features. Unfortunately OO kept the idiotic SO feature of substituting paragraph scrambling for the move-cursor up or down paragraph feature; control up arrow doesn't move your cursor to the prior paragraph, it reverses the order of the paragraphs. What genius thought of that? I had to override it with macros to protect my text in SO. So what does OO do? Its macros are inoperable, so I can't block off the threat. I hope someone gets a smidgen of common sense and fixes them in the next revision, because this is inconvenient and dangerous. So there is improvement to come, but despite that I really do like the program, and am writing Xanth on it, and this column. One thing about both SO and OO is that unlike MS Word, when they crash, THEY SAVE YOUR FILES. The arrogance of MacroHard, which trips over its own feet, accuses you of performing an illegal operation (like maybe a coat-hanger abortion?), and throws away your material, just because it can-well, that's a big reason I fled to Linux. And I do like Linux, but it is not yet sufficiently hassle-free to recommend freely to others, except for those who have a resident Linux geek in the house to handle the crises.
The darndest stuff can come in junk mail. I received an ad from NATIONAL UROLOGICAL GROUP for Uroprin, a Viagra-type male sex enhancement pill. It's supposed to make a man's relevant anatomy bigger, harder, longer-lasting, more urgent, and deliver a stronger climax. All this for only two dollars a pill, much cheaper than Viagra, and it's OTC-over-the-counter, so you don't need a prescription. But here's the kicker: they enclosed two sample pills. Try it, you'll like it. Well, now. My response and performance at age 68 is not what it was at age 18; would this restore it? I admit to being curious. So I tried it. And-am not sure it had any effect other than placebo. That is, the expectation and attention to sex could have caused the moderate enhancement I experienced. Of course I'm not dysfunctional; my capacity may be something like 85% of what it was, for a single effort, which would leave only 15% for the pill to fill in, and that might be the case. Maybe if I had lost 50% the pill would have had more to work with, as it were. So I won't say it doesn't work, just that I can't be sure, and even if it does, it's not worth two bucks a shot to me. Ask me again, a decade hence.
Sometimes Americans dismay me. A recent survey suggests that 49% think the Constitution's First Amendment goes too far. That's the one that guarantees freedom of speech, the press, assembly, petition for redress of grievances, and separation of church from state-that is, freedom of religion. Without those guarantees you get things like the Muslim states, where you had better NOT preach Christianity lest you be stoned, and I don't mean by pot, and thought-controlling dictatorship. This goes too far? This is the essence of America! As a naturalized citizen who takes the Constitutional safeguards seriously, I think 49% of our people need to go back to school and learn fundamental American values, lest they lose them. Certainly I don't want them voting to destroy the safeguards that made America great. The present administration's aversion to Constitutional rights is scary; those who don't remember McCarthyism are likely to experience something similar.
In AwGhost 1952 Philip Josť Farmer's novella "The Lovers" was published in STARTLING STORIES. It was a landmark, a story where sex was integral and well handled. It had been rejected elsewhere, demonstrating the idiocy of the editors of the day, an idiocy that seems to be a requirement for the office right up to the present. Well, friends of his staged a 50th anniversary party for him, where they read him letters they had solicited for the occasion. I had been invited, and I sent such a letter, as "The Lovers" has always been outstanding in my mind. I understand that mine was the first such response they received, and it is in the star-studded booklet they made of the occasion, along with past comments by Harlan Ellison, John Brunner, Poul Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Afred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, and present ones by Gene Wolfe, Robert Sheckley, Jean Auel, Frederik Pohl, Andre Norton and other genre luminaries. We all agree: "The Lovers" is great, and it ushered in a great career. I'm glad Phil Farmer lived to receive this recognition.
Another anniversary was the 25th since the death of Elvis Presley, the popular singer. Would you believe, he was five months younger than I; we were in the US Army at the same time, he in Germany, I in America. I could take or leave his singing, but I think it was too bad that he got into drugs and took himself out so early.
Remember two years ago when the world stood still while Florida recounted its fouled up ballots? You'd think they'd have gotten it straight by now. So, several of the same counties fouled it again again, this time in the Democratic primary, resulting in a questionable decision, as before. Here in Citrus county things proceeded without problems, it was said. Ha. We live here, we voted, and it was lucky it worked out. I had only two races to vote on, as a registered independent; nothing complicated. My ballot was rejected by the machine something like five times before finally, reluctantly, being accepted. It seems it had to be put in the machine a particular way up, a particular end first, and I had to try them all before one took. The personnel seemed not to know what to do; my wife remarked that they seemed scared stiff of the balky machine. So all is not yet well in paradise. I hope that two years hence they'll finally know how to run an election.
I notice little things. We have Norton Antivirus, and it does the job, intercepting about half a dozen viruses a day and keeping our correspondence system clean. When you put the mouse cursor on its icon, three more little figures appear, and they remind me of a toy choo-choo train: the engine with big wheels, the coal car with a big red hopper, and a boxcar. All of it upside down. Par for the computer course.
Some folk write to me, by snail or email, and are concerned that my office is simply brushing them off, pretending it's me. Some even get sarcastic about it, poking fun at obvious "office" responses that really are mine. Sigh: I say it yet again: I read everything that comes in that isn't a virus or from Nigeria-and some Nigerian missives carry viruses along with them. I answer what I deem requires it, usually with a quick sentence or two, sometimes with a full letter. I do it promptly, because a backlog can quickly become overwhelming, so normally the reader has an answer the same day or the following day. If an answer says it's from me, it is. Responding responsively to my voluminous mail still takes about one third of my working time; I know of no other successful writer who can say the same. But I appreciate the uncertainty: how can a person know that it really is me on the other end? Well, I suppose you could follow a link to one of my dedicated fans, like Dan Reitz, who knows what's what here, and ask his opinion; I think he will tell you that yes, it is me, and won't tell you why he is sure. But apart from inside information, certainty is difficult; after all, if a secretary faked a response, wouldn't she lie about it when asked? Some secretaries do get too pushy for their panties; once a doctor asked me to collaborate on a book about health and tennis, and when I called with information his secretary got it letter perfect-and never relayed the message. Since the doctor was eagerly waiting for my response, I suspect that girl was in trouble when he found out. But the good ones know their place, and if they bury incoming messages, you can be sure it is on the doctor's orders, as it were. One even told me she didn't recognize the name I was asking for; I suspect the boss had forgotten to let her know he had solicited my call. Well, we have no one here who will lie for the boss; integrity is another of my oddities, which may be why critics sometimes pretend I'm a liar, in the same manner they pretend my books are dull: to smear what they don't understand. There is a place for privacy; I try to keep my address off the Internet (and I blacklist those who post it) so that fans won't drop in on me uninvited and take my time when I'm trying to meet a deadline. Oh sure, you wouldn't do that, but you know there are others who would. There is even a place for secrecy, as in the secret ballot or battle strategy during a war. When I post a complaint about an Internet publisher, the first thing that publisher wants is the identity of the complainant, so that person can be suitably intimidated into silence; that's why I protect such anonymity. Remember, as mentioned above, I was blacklisted for six years (and may still be, thirty something years later, by some turds) for taking my complaint about a publisher to a writer's organization; you think I have forgotten or forgiven that? (And yes, now I don't go to writer's orgs; I get a lawyer and make my point in a manner they understand. It's called getting the cow's attention by kicking it in the head. And no, I would not do that to a real cow. Remember, I'm a vegetarian ogre.) But my HiPiers website is public, and however anonymous I may be in other respects, I am behind every response here, including those that merely acknowledge. I can offer no better guarantee than my word, and if you think a secretary is faking this column, then maybe she's the one you should be talking to anyway; maybe she's also writing my books and taking the heat for my supposed pedophilia. Which reminds me of an academic joke: Shakespeare's plays weren't written by him, but by another man of the same name. Piers Anthony isn't even my legal name; its the part of it I use as a pseudonym. So you might say I don't really exist, like the main character in Up in a Heaval. But this column is me, and so are my letters, for whatever that's worth.
I try to read at least one book a month. You might think this would be no problem for a writer, but it's a struggle, because I'm a workaholic, and reading subtracts time from my writing. I'm a slow reader; remember, I'm the one who took three years to make it through first grade, because of reading difficulty. As I like to say, ogres are justifiably proud of their stupidity. So a novel that someone else buzzes through in an afternoon takes me three full days. I seldom if ever read for pleasure, these days. Still, it is possible to learn things from reading, and I'm addicted to learning; I want to know all the secrets of the universe and maybe even the nature of women before I kick the bucket. So when I received a nice self-published edition of The Ancient Ones by Rob L Calvert I read it. This is what I call high grade amateur; that's not an insult, it's a category. Such books generally get bounced by publishers because they are not in the top one per cent of submissions; this one would be in the second or third per cent, a suitable candidate for Internet publishers, but that isn't ideal if what you want is a physical edition. This is the story of a man who wins a spaceship in a card game, and discovers it has a friendly autopilot named Beth who knows the ropes. She's not a woman, understand; she's a programmed personality in the machine. But she'd like to be a physical woman, so she could make it with the captain. Well, ship, autopilot, and captain are soon abducted by what seems to be a wayward comet and hauled elsewhere in the galaxy. What follows is a fairly wild adventure, with the captain sought as a lover by more than one alien female entity. My kind of junk, actually. So why did I decline to blurb it? Because I blurb only those books I deem superior as professional efforts, and this one has faults of expression and characterization that put it below that. That doesn't mean it's a bad book; in fact it's a lot of fun, with some elements that aren't normally found in traditionally published novels. Men have penises that react, women have vaginas, and rectums can pucker. At one point Beth gets to animate a physical body, but it's a few more days before she gets the vagina installed, so she can't seduce the captain yet. When the captain gets back to Earth, a century has passed, which complicates his romantic life. If you like sexy science fantasy, this will do. You can order it for $19.95 plus $5 shipping from Cos-Paw Publishing, PO Box 202, Dunlap, CA 93621.
Then I read another from my library, as I do every so often, refreshing and verifying my impressions of yore. Some great books remembered from teenage reading turn out to be less impressive when reread at retirement age, but some stand up. I like to think that my own books will stand up. This one was Roadmarks, by Roger Zelazny, where there is a highway that travels time. Fascinating notion, but I stalled out when I first got it twenty years ago. Zelazny was a friend of mine, a writer whose professional course was reminiscent of a flaming meteor, the object of effusive critical praise, awards, and publisher interest. You might think that I, as a distant also-ran struggling to overcome the blacklist, might have resented his success. That was not the case, and not because I'm a generous person. It was that from the first, Zelazny, who came on the scene about the time I did, openly praised my books and supported me. When we met at a conference, and I told how an editor had bounced a novel of mine as uninteresting, other writers said he was a good editor and my book, Hasan, probably was as he described it. Then Zelazny stepped in, telling how the same editor had bounced one of his novels similarly. When it won an award as best novel when published elsewhere, that editor wrote to him demanding to know why he hadn't submitted it to him first. He moved his two hands as if weighing the two letters: which one was valid? That shut up the other writers, and indeed, my novel later did better than much of what that editor accepted. It's extremely hard not to like a person like Zelazny, and I didn't succeed. Indeed, I call it my Zelazny lesson: you can't resent someone who's busy praising you. He was a nice guy, and, despite the applause of critics, a great writer in his heyday. In later years the winds of fortune changed, his illness evidently washed out his writing flair, and I became more successful than he, commercially; it was my regret that I lacked opportunity to support him as he had supported me, and he died too young. So what of this novel? This time I damn well read it through-and verified my prior impression. Oh, it's well enough written, and it has a story. But it's all about the machinations of time travelers along this fabulous highway, spy and counterspy. We never see any of the cultures to which that highway has access. No Babylon, no future realm, nothing. Just taverns and campsites and friends and enemies along the way, as if we never leave the Interstate. That's a gigantic waste of a great opportunity. I'm sorry to see it.
And I read what I took to be a cheap sexy historical novel, Mistress of Rogues, by Rosamond Marshall. I mean, it's in cheap paperback format, with a reclining half nude beauty on the cover, and the blurb "Passion And Intrigue In A Lusty Era." I must have picked it up when it was published in 1956; it's the first paperback printing by POPULAR LIBRARY. Then marriage, trying to scrape out a living in a depressed area, my wife's first miscarriage, and my entry into the US Army for two years diverted my attention, and I never read the book. Until 46 years later. So just how junky is this effort? I was amazed: it is well written, well characterized, and has a considerable story of a young woman married off young to an abusive man, who finally escapes him and makes it to riches and the discovery of the worth of good works. So this is not cheap sex, it's misery and redemption set in Renaissance Italy.
Then I got caught up in mastering my new Linux system, and in writing Xanth, and reading halted, except for My America, at 10 pages a day. The Jehovah's Witnesses gave me a copy of a beautifully illustrated little book Life-How did it get here? By evolution or creation? whose thesis is that the intricate miracles of life as we know it could not have occurred by chance. Well, I have been through this before; in fact I have a considerable discussion in And Eternity, so I won't belabor it here, other than to say that I believe in evolution, not creation. The key elements the creationists omit are natural selection and time-billions of years of it.
Nick Jamilla sent me a copy of his Shimmering Sword, a nonfiction discussion of Samurai, Western, and Star Wars sword fighting. The author is a black belt in aikido and kendo, so is writing from a base of knowledge and experience. I once took judo classes, and authored a number of collaborative martial arts novels, so have a notion; if you are interested in the reality beneath the Star Wars fantasy, this is a worthwhile book. Check www.ShimmeringSword.com.
And collaborator Clifford Pickover, known primarily for his imaginative nonfiction books, sent two of his individual novels: Liquid Earth and The Lobotomy Club. These are the first two of the Neoreality series, with Sushi Never Sleeps and Egg Drop Soup to come. These are from The Lighthouse Press, http://TheLighthousePress.com. As I said, I abruptly ran out of reading time, but these look fascinating.
Stray notes: I was asked what the three biggest problems of publishing are. I replied Stupid Editors, Bad Distribution, and Ignorant Critics. I dare you to find any writer who disagrees. I received a copy of NEW HAMPSHIRE FEDERALIST, put out by the National Federation of the Blind, whose president is Ed Meskys, with whom I once worked compiling an index of genre book reviews, before he lost his sight. He published the award winning fanzine NIEKAS, which means Nothing in Lithuanian. Those interested can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org. I saw a note on DVD players: it's best to buy a multi-regional player, so the anal-retentive movie industry can't stop you from watching videos that originate elsewhere in the world. Makes sense to me. Evidence is developing that the left side of your brain registers "me," and the right side "not me." So our sense of self lies in the the left side. The health newsletter ALTERNATIVES says that aspirin is responsible for as many deaths each day as AIDS in this country. There may be more rapes perpetrated against men than against women. Here's the key: prison. Officials prefer to ignore the problem. There's a health warning out: seems the meat substitute, Quorn, makes some people sick. We haven't found Quorn on sale locally yet. One of the ongoing scandals is that around the world children are forced into perilous work, including sex slavery. On the other hand, some adults are falsely accused of child abuse, complicating the problem; see http://abuse-excuse.com/home.html. A number of folk have researched the term ChroMagic online, and satisfied me that though it exists, it is not related to my fantasy series, and there should be no problem. Thanks, folk. Someone played anagrams with my name, and informed me that it spells "insane trophy" and "horny panties." Why are my critics not surprised? Newspaper item says most whistle-blowers face retaliation. Duh! What I want to know is why they don't go after the retaliators, who are obviously the unreformed culprits? And a reader informs me that I am among the top 100 most challenged authors of the last decade. Gee-I made a list! A reader sent me information on research on gravity shielding. I think shielding is the way to go; I use it freely in the Space Tyrant series. But as seems to be usual in such cases, the evidence is somehow obscure and a straight solid demonstration has not been verified. Jamie Lee Curtis, the actress, can look sexy as hell when she wants; now she is exposing herself without air brushing and other aids, at age 43, and looks considerably less sexy. I say more power to her for her honesty; I wouldn't kick her out of bed, even un-airbrushed. Why should only faked up women be considered attractive?
A reader who found SF/Fantasy genre books not represented in his school asked me to write my thoughts on the subject. I did-and my letter bounced. This happens too often; I answer a letter on the day it arrives, and the return address is no good. This annoys me. So here is that spot essay for your benefit instead: "Yes, I'm annoyed by the determined ignorance of many schools. I was an English teacher myself, and it bothered me then. The classics, Shakespeare, and so on, should be considered. But so should contemporary literature, and science fiction, fantasy, and horror are a significant part of it. But it's hard to make an impression on curricula that are set in stone. Here is a possible line of reasoning to use: most students will never read another classical book after leaving school, having been effectively taught to hate that type of literature. Those few who continue to read at all, will read what they like, such as fantasy. Wouldn't it be better for schools to address the genre, perhaps enabling students to read it more critically than they would otherwise? If what is taught in schools is to have any bearing on real life reading, this would seem to be in order." Meanwhile, cheating and plagiarism are a massive problem in schools at every level; I wonder whether this could be in part because the schools are not teaching anything that interests students? I don't approve of cheating, but I do wonder. Meanwhile, according to a newspaper article, in Florida students are systematically taught to remove all thought from their writing. Great going, schools!
I had half a slew of additional notes, but my squeeze of time prevents me from exploring them right now. Sorry about that.
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