Meet Guest Author Helen Sims…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Helen Sims 02
I have always loved words! As a child, I would flick through the dictionary, and try to learn the meanings of whichever word my little fingers found first.

It may seem like a strange hobby for a little girl, but I had realised very young that I was different from other children.

I was born with Cerebral Palsy, which means I cannot walk or stand unaided. Whilst I did go outside and play in the garden with my sister, (and later cycle around the neighbourhood on my beloved (specially adapted) red trike, there were lots of things I could never be part of so I felt left out. and often lonely.

At age eight I made a small decision to try and raise awareness of disability – to help people understand what it can feel like, to try and turn negative into positive, and to ensure we were treated as…

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A Look back at the Kosovo war:

The Muslim Times

Kosovo: Where NATO Bombing Only Made the Killing Worse

Whatever horrors they may have been planning, the Serbs were not engaged in genocidal activities in Kosovo before the bombing began. They were fighting a separatist movement, led by the KLA, and behaving with the brutality typical of security forces, though to a degree infinitely more restrained than those backed by the United States in Central America. One common estimate of the number of Kosovar Albanians killed in the year before the bombing is 2,500. With…

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Guest post – The Fort by Nick Colaccino #shortstory

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

silhouetted trees in fogIt took quite a bit of effort, and more than a few stumbles, but I was finally able to scamper up the tree trunk. I did my best to avoid using the thoroughly rotted latter made from 2-by-4 planks of wood nailed to the wide trunk. No telling how sturdy—or tetanus-filled—those are, I thought.

On reaching the first landing I gingerly reached out with my left foot and carefully shifted more and more of my weight onto the increasingly warped plywood. Ever since we spent that summer building it in middle school, the fort had always had a haphazard feel to it. The plywood, ranging in thickness dependent on how much we felt it needed, was hastily nailed together and spanned across three trees, forming an irregular triangle. Opposite the ladder, a narrow ‘bridge’ (if you can call it that) stretched across to another platform about ten feet away…

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School Takeovers, Concentrated in Black Districts, Take Away Democracy

Diane Ravitch's blog

Thanks to Mike Klonsky for calling attention to this article about state takeovers of districts and schools. A takeover nullifies parent and community voice. A disproportionate number of takeovers have been inflicted on African-American communities. As we know from the failure of the Achievement School District, these takeovers have a bad track record. What do they accomplish? They nullify parent and community voice.

In New Jersey – which, in 1987, became the first state to take over a school district – Camden is among several urban districts that have come under state control. The state hired Camden’s superintendent, while the mayor appoints school board members – a practice that predates the state takeover of the district in 2013.

A judge last week dismissed a lawsuit from Camden residents seeking the right to elect school board members, questioning the rationale for electing a board that has been stripped of its power…

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Ads are NOT a Brand and Promotion is NOT Platform—Understanding the Difference

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken. Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

Very often when I write about brand and platform, writers assume I am talking about promotion and marketing (ads) and that is not only a false assumption, it can be a fatal one. When we hop onto Twitter or Facebook and are barraged with book spam, a big reason it annoys us (though not the only) is because the author is engaging in these activities with no solid brand or platform.

It then either becomes white noise (invisible) or worse an irritation (negative branding). Writers trying to create a brand by serving up copious book promotion will have a brand all right. The brand of self-serving asshat.

The sight of the author’s face or book might even be enough to spike our blood pressure. We are far more likely to block than buy.

Why? What went wrong?

We have to look at…

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Vampires and Photographs

Write of Passage

The current novel I am reading is about a vampiric private investigator. True to common lore, she does not show up in mirrors. And she does not show up in photos, either, but that may or may not be part of lore. Let me explain.

Vampire mythology appears to have been popularized after the introduction of mirrors, but long before the introduction of photography. Earlier cameras took images by using a series of mirrors to focus light. Digital cameras, however, don’t rely on mirrors (as far as I can tell), so the idea of a vampire not appearing in modern photos no longer makes sense. Perhaps without realizing this, Charles Stross addresses the camera-ready vampire in his Laundry Filesseries by allowing his vampiric characters to dress and primp using laptop cameras even though they do not appear in mirrors. I honestly don’t remember if he ever went into this…

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60 Lawmakers Seek Delay of Billion Dollar Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

The Muslim Times

a sign that frustration is growing in Congress over Saudi Arabia, a bipartisan group of 60 lawmakers have signed a letter seeking to delay the Obama administration’s planned sale of $1.15 billion in arms and military equipment to Riyadh.

The letter, addressed to President Barack Obama, cites the growing number of civilian casualties in Yemen caused by the Saudi-led military coalition, and the Obama administration’s failure to reign in its Arab ally.

“This military campaign has had a deeply troubling impact on civilians,” wrote the lawmakers in a draft obtained by Foreign Policy. “Just in the last several days, a Saudi airstrike on a school in Yemen killed 10 children – some as young as 6-years-old – and a Saudi airstrike on an MSF hospital in Yemenkilled 11 people.”

The missive is expected to be sent to the White House on Tuesday.

The proposed sale, approved by…

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Why So Many Americans Are Leaving Their Religion

The Muslim Times


Source: Huffington Post

American religion is in a state of flux.

Religious “nones,” a category that includes atheists, agnostics and those with no affiliation to organized religion, now make up roughly a quarter of the American public. It’s a rapidly growing group ― now constituting the second largest “religious” category after evangelical Christians.  And the designation is highly common among millennials, a trend likely to persist with every subsequent generation.

Nearly 80 percent of “nones” were raised in a religion they chose to leave behind once they reached adulthood. A recent surveyconducted as part of Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study investigates why these former faithful left the fold ― and the reasons they gave are illuminating.

Forty-nine percent of religious “nones” who were raised in a religion say they simply stopped believing. That was true for 82 percent…

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