The Power of Amazon to Kick Down Newbies

Let's face it, the new tech world's giants, Google, Apple, Amazon (and others for the Chinese) have incredible power over our lives. Some of it sweet, some not so sweet.

First, a sweet example, Google's doodle to wish you a happy birthday:

Those are some of the doodles you see when you do a search on your birthday (I just got the top one on the left). Surprised? Of course not, when you signed up for any of Google's services from Gmail to YouTube, you gave away your birthday. So the friendly giant with the clever algorithms whose famous motto is "don't be evil" gave you a pat on the back.

Not everyone is happy with this (see this person's complaint to the Daily Telegraph, here) but I must confess I was happy. I thought it was a rather nice touch.

Next, a not so sweet example, Amazon's book recommendations to you. The principle, of course, is the same: clever algorithms that "remember" your past purchases, possibly even the samples you download (? I'm not sure, but it's feasible). From those, your reading tastes are deduced, and Amazon suggests to you what you should read next.

Convenient? Yes and no. For people who are readers and not writers, it's probably very convenient. Though some unexpected hiccups can happen: for example, my husband lent his Kindle to my mother because when she got older (beyond 95) she had trouble with daily financial management (normal at that age). But she still read assiduously, at least one novel per week on her Kindle. I downloaded books for her directly to her Kindle, mostly thrillers and some romances. Result? My husband was getting from Amazon tons of recommendations for books in genres he never read simply because Amazon had no way of knowing who in fact was reading that Kindle.

But for writers, especially newbies trying to break through with their first novel, Amazon's system can be lethal. Simply because it is geared to zeroing in on the best selling books in any genre/sub-genre or descriptive keywords you use to search for books. As a reader, if you go to Amazon's website, you will see lists of book titles ranked by sales, i.e. most popular. And if you don't go to their site, you'll receive emails with similar recommendations filtered by the trail left by your past purchases. 

In both cases, what you get is what is most popular since for Amazon that is easiest to sell. 

A vicious circle. If you're a newbie, you need to break into that circle. But reaching the top selling 100 books on Kindle is not enough, you need to stay there. A tall order, one that very few newbies manage: individual marketing efforts, no matter how continuous (Twitter campaigns, free downloads, give-outs!) cannot match the marketing machine of Big Publishers who have access to all the Big Media, starting with the New York Times and the UK Guardian.

So traditionally published books sell ahead of indies: they turn up at the top of all Amazon sales lists while the few indies that make it in those lists are those that were once traditionally published and therefore have a recognizable name (they are often busy selling their back list to their fans and only more recently have moved to publishing new stuff). 

The point for Amazon is this: there's more money to be made from traditionally published books than from self-published ones. With publishers, Amazon makes more money: the price of indie titles tends to cluster around the "sweet price" of $3.99 while traditionally published books normally sell around $13.

Or at least, Amazon thinks it makes more money. It has allowed publishers to set their own prices and (surprise!) the high prices they have set are causing a drop in ebook sales. 

Ebook sales were reportedly down by 10% in the first half of this year according to the New York Times. But as it turns out, this was only a partial statistic concerning the books of 1200 publishers of the American Publishers Association (AAP) not the whole market.  See Fortune's article here

According to Authors Earnings that tries for a broader view through sampling the whole market, indies ebooks sales are not down: 

E-book unit sales

As you can see, AAP-reported traditionally published sales went from some 45% of the market in February 2014 to little over 30% in September 2015, that's a big drop for traditional publishing!

And it's a big drop for traditional publishers in a market that is holding steady, or growing by at least one percent this year, according to this interesting and convincing analysis in stratechery .

So what is really happening?

There is no question that a few indies are doing very well, from Bella Andre to Hugh Howey - both masters in the difficult art of marketing. Hugh Howey is excellent with videos about his writing life and Bella Andre uses teams of marketing consultants, something I discovered last year at the Matera Fiction Festival where she explained how she uses up to 30 specialized consultants to market her numerous books, she's like a small publishing house all by herself...

For newbies without this kind of marketing savvy, the story is very different. Their books gather dust on their digital shelves and automatically fall into the "long tail" in the Kindle Store because of Amazon's algorithms that always give pride of place to best sellers. There are over 4 million titles in the Kindle Store, so the tail is very long!

The solution?

Amazon should follow Netflix's example. If it did, it would show a "nice touch" and become less "evil" for newbies.

Let me explain. There is a huge difference in the algorithms used by Amazon and those used by Netflix. 

The reason? Netflix's business model is different. The price at which it sells its film streaming service does not cover the cost of blockbusters. Therefore Netflix has designed its algorithms in such a way that it sends its customers to view the hidden gems in the long tail. That is the way Netflix makes money.

If algorithms can do that for Netflix, surely they could do it for Amazon too. Indeed, Amazon needs to reflect on that drop in traditionally published ebook sales. It will soon reach the point where revenues from those sales will also drop (if it hasn't already). 

Amazon could make a lot more money from indies if it did like Netflix and sent its customers down the "long tail" to discover that overlooked read from a uniquely gifted writer...

Just a suggestion. But I hope someone at Amazon will read this and wake up to the possibility. There's money to be made from indies and Amazon has been way too much focused on the easy part of selling, limiting its efforts to traditional publishers. Time to look after the long tail!  


Soft Power: What it Really Means

Source: click here
Soft power is a very popular term. 

If you google it, you will get 106 million results in half a second. 

It is bandied about in every conceivable context and everybody thinks they know what it means. But in the international community - that political world that whirls around America and the United Nations - it has a surprisingly specific meaning. 

A meaning first given to it by a Harvard professor, Joseph S. Nye in an article and then in a book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power  published in 1992. 

Professor Nye's political theories have had a formidable impact on American thinking - we have to remember that among his many positions at the university he was the Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and now that he has retired, he still holds the position of University Distinguished Service Professor. He was  active in  government when it was in the hands of the Democrats and served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton AdministrationHe is the chairman of the North American branch of the Trilateral Commission[12] and the co-chair of the Aspen Strategy Group.  

This is someone whose ideas travel far and wide.

As reported on Wikipedia, he "pioneered the theory of soft power. His notion of 'smart power' became popular with the use of this phrase by members of the Clinton Administration, and more recently the Obama Administration." 

In fact, he expanded on the notion of soft power - as opposed to the "hard power" of raw military might - in several books, in particular, in The Paradox of American Power (2002), Soft Power (2004) and The Future of Power (2011) - the latter explores "the enduring nature of power in the cyber age". According to Madeleine K. Albright, "If your goal is to understand world affairs in the twenty-first century, there could be no better guide than The Future of Power."

So if Professor Nye has written a book about soft power with that very title on the cover, we have the final word on it, right?


A top reviewer on Amazon, Robert David Steele Vivas made this scathing criticism regarding  this particular book (quote is edited to include only the main points - highlights added):

First, this book does not focus at all on the most important soft power of all, that of a strategic culture. Others have documented how North Vietnam whipped the United States, not with firepower, but with political will deeply rooted in a strategic culture that was superior to that of the United States of America.
Second, despite the author's earlier service as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the book gives cursory attention to intelligence reform, and does not mention, at all, open source intelligence (disclosure: my pet rock). [...]
Third, the book lacks substance in the sense of effective examples. A simple illustration: $100M can buy a Navy ship of war or an Army brigade with tanks and artillery (two forms of hard power) or it can buy 1,000 diplomats or 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers or a water desalination plant capable of distilling 100M cubic meters of fresh water a year (three forms of soft power), or it can buy one day of war over water (the typical failure cost of hard power).
The book has exactly one paragraph on corporate misbehavior, which as William Greider has documented in "The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy", is the most evil and destructive form of "soft power." This is a severe oversight.
The book neglects foreign aid in a strategic context, and shows no appreciation for open spectrum, open source software, and open source intelligence, the triad of the new global open society. There is no hint of how a Digital Marshall Plan might be the most powerful "soft power" device every conceived.
The book neglects non-governmental organizations, with no mention of the organizations that are giving soft power a whole new dimension today (the European Centre for Conflict Prevention or ECCP, for example) and the book makes no mention of the "good" side of religious activism, the soft power so ably articulated by Dr. Douglas Johnston in his two seminal works on faith-based diplomacy and religion as the missing dimension in statecraft [...]
Joe Nye has my vote as the new voice of reason within the Democratic circles, but he needs to be balanced by the Jonathan Schell, William Greider, Herman Daly, Paul Ray, and other European and Asian scholars. The world has gotten too complicated to be addressed by Op-Eds out of Harvard. 

Here I'd like to pursue further two of the above points:

(1) the soft power of religious activism

 In the academic world, this is exemplified by the work of Douglas M. Johnston, a Harvard Ph D. in Political Science and President/Founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. He is the author of several books, including  Religion, Terror, and Error that won in 2011 the “Book of the Year Award” by Foreword Reviews, the rating agency for universities and independent publishers.

In the world at large, the iconic image of soft power is Pope Francis, with his "message of peace and forgiveness". He is an unrivaled master of "spiritual engagement", nobody comes close to the moral force of his voice.

He is the real successor of Pope John Paul II.

Here we have two extraordinary Popes who were able to change the course of History.

Everyone agrees that the collapse of the Soviet Union was accelerated by Pope John Paul II's actions; it is still early days for Pope Francis but he has already played a role in the Cuba-America rapprochement - perhaps not as a mediator (he denies it) but in providing a favorable setting.

The American press has taken note in anticipation of his trip to the US, as you can see in this notable piece by Jim Yardley in the New York Times: "A Humble Pope Challenging the World".
Pope Francis (Source: click here)

Popes operate without a single division, without ever firing any weapon and without any threat of military power.

"Hard power" is not part of the Vatican arsenal.

Unlike the Permanent Five at the UN Security Council (US, Russia, China, UK and France).

When the Permanent Five exercise their "soft power" at the UN, what is meant is their veto power. Outside of the UN, their power is never soft: it is rooted in their nuclear arsenal.

 (2) the soft power of strategic culture 

Mr David Steele Vivas mentions Vietnam and he is right about that. But I would add to the argument. I would mention ecological economics  and the vision of a world where growth cannot be based on a capitalistic model of perpetual growth and exploitation of natural resources.

Our future economy must necessarily be limited to the carrying capacity of the planet if we, humans, are to survive at all.

And this brings us straight to the theory of a "steady state economy" of which Herman Daly, co-founder and associate editor of the journal, Ecological Economics is a major proponent.

In fact, ecological economics has become a discipline in its own right. It tries to answer such questions as Can China achieve its carbon intensity target by 2020 while sustaining economic growth? 

But attacks on the once-dominant economic paradigm, the neo-liberal market-based approach generally referred to as the "Washington Consensus" don't stop there.

New ideas keep bubbling up and the Internet acts as an accelerator of ideology shifts.

Jacques Attali
For example, if you go outside America, you find economists like Jacques Attali, author of numerous best-sellers - his latest is "Peut-on prévoir l'Avenir?" (in French only for now, published by Fayard - title translates roughly as: Can One Foretell the Future). He has founded a new economic discipline based on including future generations, the "économie positive". Proponents of this economic school will meet in the Havre next week to debate new approaches to solve the world problems, none of them based on neoliberalism.

It is interesting to observe how new ideas that shake our culture end up at the United Nations. 

In previous posts, I have mentioned Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, adviser to the UN Secretary General He is by far the clearest proponent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Following on his hugely successful, The End of Poverty, Economic Possibilities for our Time published in 2006, his latest book, The Age of Sustainable Development, is a must read for anyone interested in taking the pulse of our culture.

But Professor Sachs is only the latest of a long line of major intellectual figures that have influenced the way of thinking at the United Nations.

Twenty five years ago, it was already happening. For example, you have fascinating figures like Marylin Waring, a New Zealand activist for female human rights and environmental issues, a development consultant and United Nations expert. 

In 1988, with her forceful book If Women Counted, she managed to convinced the United Nations to review its definition of Gross National Product. She powerfully argued that national accounts never included the economic contribution of women, their housework, their caring of the sick, of the young and old.

Her arguments inspired a revision of national accounting methods in dozens of countries and she is considered a principal founder of the discipline of feminist economics.

In fact, all this brings me to my point: so far, all discussions of soft power that have stemmed from Professor Nye's work have focused on America's role in world politics.

This is due to the restrictive definition of soft power proposed by Professor Nye, and I quote from the prologue in his Soft Power book:

"It is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies."
Clearly the focus here is at the national level. And if case you missed that he's talking about America, his next sentences make it crystal clear: "When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced. America has a long had a great deal of soft power. Think of the impact of Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms in Europe at the end of World War II..."

But the term deserves a broader, non-American application. I would propose:

Soft power is the use of logical reasoning and/or moral values in place of the hard power of military might.  

Soft power is very much in evidence at the United Nations where it is not only wielded by the Permanent Fives at the Security Council. As I plan to show in my upcoming book about the United Nations, it is wielded by all stakeholders in the UN
(1) all delegates, not just the Permanent Five, also for example the Group of 77
(2) civil society, from NGOs, including "human rights watchdogs" like Amnesty International, to representatives of indigenous populations; 
(3) UN professional staff and UN experts - a somewhat nebulous but very large group that covers the core UN staff (some 45,000 persons) as well as the constellation of international consultants working with them, some of whom, like Professor Jeffrey Sachs have both a high profile and clear attachment to UN goals. 

Since this is after all a human organization, it is obvious that the UN contains a varying range of individuals, from those wholly dedicated to UN values to those dropped in high managerial positions as a result of political pressure (notably the Secretary General himself whose appointment is dependent on the full support from the Permanent Fives). Nevertheless, as I hope to show in my book, the UN staff, as it is tasked with monitoring UN decisions and bringing problems to the UN's attention, tends to do exactly that. 

It's part of the job.

The results are there for all to see: for example, the climate change issue was first brought to the UN's attention in the late 1980's. That led to the 1992 Sustainable Development Rio Conference and many more conferences that followed on the same subject. 

And now, in 2015, some 25 years later (!), we again have the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change on the agenda. 

First in New York in September at the UN General Assembly with the adoption of the new set of SDGs and later in Paris, at COP21 in December.

2015 is turning into a Soft Power Year at the UN... 


Russia's Secret Weapon: its Veto Power at the United Nations. But is it Legal?

Pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk 9 March 2014 (source here)
Russia has been flexing its military muscle, annexing Crimea, provoking war in Eastern Ukraine, and, more generally, threatening Europe through its dominant position as a major source of Europe's energy supplies. Putin is beginning to look like a new Hitler.

And there is another Russian weapon that many underestimate:

Russia uses with deadly effectiveness its veto power at the United Nations.

In fact, when Russia exercises its veto power at the Security Council paralyzing any move by the international community to address  dramatic situations such as that of Syria, the news makes no waves, it doesn't rattle anybody.

It's considered standard fare and can be safely dismissed. The UN doesn't matter, that's not where the international power game is played. Right?


The UN matters, it's the only international forum we have, there is no other.  And if the UN were allowed to act on behalf of international justice, the power game would change.

The Syrian refugee wave hits Europe, article by Ben Shapiro ( here)
To convince yourself of the impact of Russia's veto power, look at the migrant crisis in Europe. The continent is overrun by hundreds of thousands of refugees -  that's the term I prefer to use: "migrants" is too generic and covers "economic immigrants" that are in fact a minority and not a threat; they usually come equipped with skills or university degrees. And Germany, Europe's power house, is the preferred destination.

Note that most of these people come from Syria - small wonder, some 4 million Syrians have been displaced by the war.

By using its veto power, Russia has ensured that war in Syria festers on, unimpeded - causing people to flee. 

Russia has successfully prevented for years other concerned nations - notably the "Western" three of the "Permanent Five", the US, UK and France, to take action and restore peace in Syria.

And thus root out the cause of the "migrant crisis" in Europe.

Is there a way to stop Russia ?

What if it were illegal for Russia to use its veto power? 

Russia is entitled to it because it is considered the successor of the Soviet Union. And we all know that the USSR - the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (anyone remembers that's what it was?) - was one of the "Permanent Five" at the United Nations, i.e. the five countries who won World War II, the US, France, the UK, China and the USSR.

It sounds crazy, but an argument can be made that this should not be legally so. 

Russia is not the Soviet Union's successor. Russia today is a Federation - no longer a Union of Republics.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, that very question was raised. And raised by serious and respected international lawyers. The debate was really part of the broader debate concerning UN reform, an issue that has pestered the United Nations since its foundation - no doubt because it was created with a serious flaw, the famous five permanent seats with veto power on the Security Council.

A flaw that if it is not corrected could threaten the UN's very survival.

Here are the facts.

On 24 December 1991,  the Soviet Ambassador Y. Vorontsov, Permanent Representative of the USSR to the United Nations, transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations a letter from the President of the Russian Federation, Boris N. Yeltsin, stating that:
the membership of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the United Nations,including the Security Council and all other organs and organizations of the United Nations system, is being continued by the Russian Federation (RSFSR) with the support of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In this connection, I request that the name ‘Russian Federation’ should be used in the United Nations in place of the name ‘the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’. The Russian Federation maintains full responsibility for all the rights and obligations of the USSR under the Charter of the United Nations, including the financial obligations. 

Incredibly, that letter went  out 24 hours before Soviet President Gorbachev resigned. When that letter went out, the Soviet Union still existed, it had a president.

In fact, the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the fall of 1991 was remarkably swift. It took about 4 months.

On 6 September 1991, the three Baltic republics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) became independent from the Soviet Union and on 17 September, they were admitted to the United Nations.

The remaining 12 republics, having all proclaimed their independence that fall, declared that the Soviet Union had "ceased to exist"  in a meeting at Alma Ata on 21 December 1991. Eleven of them (with Georgia attending as an observer)  agreed to set up a Commonwealth of Independent States and to support Russia in taking over the USSR membership in the UN. Presumably they figured that Russia would help them get admission to the UN.

By July 1992, all 11 republics had been admitted as new states to the United Nations.  Note that Ukraine and Belarus were already UN members before all this happened, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union did not affect their UN status.

The UN Secretary General circulated the Russian request for a name change to all the members and nobody objected. There never was a vote at the UN General Assembly - in short, the usual procedure for admission was never followed. And nowhere in the UN Charter is there a clause for silent consent.

By January 1992, Russia had fully inherited the Soviet Union's seat and veto privilege at the United Nations.

Question settled? No.

Prof. Yehuda Z. Blum, noted international lawyer with a chair at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote in 1992 an oft-quoted article (52 times!), arguing that there was no problem as long as the identity and continuity between the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation could be established.

A lot of people at the time felt that Russia "deserved" the Soviet seat: of the 15 ex-Soviet republics, it was the largest, with 150 million people and some 75% of the resources of the Soviet Union. Russia had supporters in America, among them  Prof Richard N. Gardner of Columbia University who wrote about this for the New York Times (on 19 December, two days before the Alma Ata meeting when the Soviet Union still existed - one is entitled to wonder whether it was read by Russian diplomats and what they made of it).

Yet, Russia, compared to the Soviet Union, was considerably less than the whole and World War II was won with the help of all 15 republics, not just Russia. So it was legitimate to question whether it had a right to the Soviet seat at the Security Council.

More important, from a legal point of view, the Soviet Union had "ceased to exist" since that is precisely what had been declared in Alma Ata on that fateful 21 December by all the republics that once composed it - indeed, that very declaration formed the basis for their own claim to independence.

If the Soviet Union had ceased to exist, there was no UN seat to inherit.

Therefore, the situation was very different to what had happened, for example, when India had broken down into two countries. Not only did India continue to exist - but it continued as the original UN member and Pakistan, upon becoming a new state, had to apply for membership.

The Russian case is also very different from what happened to China. Mainland China displaced China/Taiwan at the UN not with a letter to the Secretary General but with a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, resolution 2758 passed on 25 October 1971 with a two-thirds vote referring to Article 18 of the UN Charter. Here is the text: 

While the Resolution solved China's problem of representation at the UN, it left Taiwan in the lurch - with a government that still claims today to be the legitimate heir to the Republic of China, and therefore unjustly "expelled" from the UN.

As Prof. Blum wrote in his famous article:
with the demise of the Soviet Union itself, its membership in the UN should have automatically lapsed and Russia should have been admitted to membership in the same way as the other newly-independent republics (except for Belarus and Ukraine). 
Yes, Belarus and Ukraine were UN members before all this happened. But if the UN had placed Russia on a par with the other republics of the ex-Soviet Union, then its claim to a permanent seat on the Security Council and veto power would have lapsed - immediately causing a constitutional crisis at the UN itself.


Because  the UN Charter, Article 23 (1) explicitly states the the Security Council should be constituted by 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent.

As Prof. Blum suggests, "it is reasonable to assume that considerations of this nature played a major role in prompting the Secretary-General and the UN membership to accede to Russia’s claim – however flawed legally – to be the ‘continuation’ of the Soviet Union."

It would seem that a historic opportunity to reduce the number of permanent members was missed - this kind of "constitutional crisis" could have helped to weaken the concept of permanent members with veto power. 

So, at this point in time, some 25 years after Russia grabbed the Soviet Union's permanent seat at the Security Council, can anything be done to "right" this wrong - and at the same time dent the veto power of the five permanent members?

Because the veto power offends our sense of international justice. And when one of the five exercises its veto power, it is not even required to explain it. It just says "no" and that's it. World peace is held hostage to the whims of a Putin. Russia claims that its veto power is key for "holding the balance" of power (!). It only appears to be key to defend its own nationalistic interests - as is, in fact, the case with all the other permanent members, the USA included.

France seems to be the only one ready to acknowledge that the veto power should never be exercised in a humanitarian emergency, i.e. to defend "mass atrocities".

Support can also be expected from the current US Ambassador Samantha Power, author of a remarkable account of the Rwanda genocide, the Pulitzer prize-winning book " A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide". Known as a "firebrand humanitarian", she hasn't so far changed anything to the usual Security Council power game, though she has strongly condemned Russia (see here). But no doubt she is also finding the limits of her role where serving US interests beats any humanitarian consideration (see here and here).

There is a movement of "small countries" headed by Switzerland called the ACT asking for improvement in the Security Council's methods of work including more transparency.

Unfortunately this is a low-profile game played among delegates. It  rarely hits the news and has few outsiders watching it. The Global Policy Forum does an excellent job of keeping tabs on what is happening  but more would be needed.

Street protests when the UN Security Council meets and particularly when an unconscionable veto is pronounced would no doubt help to signal that people like you and me want justice. But it's not enough and not likely to lead to any concrete results. And no doubt naive. The fact is that UN delegates hide in their glass palaces and respond only to their own governments, not to people in the street.

Something else needs to be done.

The delegates themselves should take the matter in their hands.

They should object: why ever should Russia be the successor of the Soviet Union? The question of the legality of Russia's representation at the UN should be raised again, it really has never been solved.  And it could be raised by countries from the ex-Soviet Union and all their "friends". Eastern Europeans and Central Asians have many friends in different parts of the world. I am quite sure Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine would be happy to question the legality of Russia's seat at the Security Council. Surely a two-thirds majority at the General Assembly (as required by Article 18 of the UN Charter) could be mustered to force Russia out of its permanent seat at the Security Council?

It is a question of phrasing the resolution in such a way that Russia is shown to be in an illegal situation. That is the work of professional diplomats, it shouldn't be too hard to do.

My thanks go to Giuseppe Bonanno di Linguaglossa for drawing my attention to this question. If you can read Italian, I urge you to visit his blog where he presents more on this matter, click here.

For those interested in reading more, check out :

Russian Federation at the UNhttp://www.un.org/depts/dhl/unms/russianfederation.shtml

Analysis by Prof. Yehuda Z. Blum, Hebrew University, Jerusalem: Russia Takes Over the Soviet Union's Seat at the United Nations

Article 23 of the UN Charter: http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter5.shtml

Article 18 of the UN Charter:

Russia's position on the veto (March 1999):

Global Policy Forum on the UN reform question:  https://www.globalpolicy.org/un-reform.html
For a list of key documents: https://www.globalpolicy.org/un-reform/general-analysis-un-reform.html
In particular, the 2008 proposal, article by Rodrigue Tremblay, U. of Montreal
                       the 2013 proposal, article by Volker Lehmann, Senior Policy Analyst with FES

Wikipedia's entry (controversial): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia_and_the_United_Nations


Fighting Poverty: The Wrong Approach

Source: wikipedia 
Fighting poverty is controversial and complex.

Why? Because it is a highly politicized and misunderstood social issue.

Conservatives inevitably will clash with liberals when the issue comes up. The conservatives are convinced that if people are poor it's their own fault while the liberals lay the blame squarely on the rich.

It is deeply ironic that one of the historically iconic images of the cinema is Charlie Chaplin's tramp character, drolly shimmying his way through the Big Depression, yet setting the crowds howling with laughter.

And it is deeply symbolic of the complexity of the issue.

Both the clash and the misunderstanding were brought to me vividly this week-end with a clever video about fighting poverty that was just uploaded on YouTube and that I  first saw on Thingser, a fascinating new social media that brings together people around their interests - and, if you follow this blog, you'll know what my interests are: social issues in general, the United Nations in particular and how that organization is involved, inter alia, in fighting poverty. That's why I saw this video a couple of days ago when I opened up "my things" page on Thingser

Here's the video, with a frontal attack on the United Nations' efforts to fight poverty:

As you can see, this is visually very effective.

It manipulates you emotionally before you have time to reflect on the message. 

The video is produced by the  Rules org and it sits on their home page. These are undoubtedly people of good will, genuinely concerned with poverty. They describe themselves as "a decentralized movement of activists campaigning around the world against poverty"  and this is how they express their mission:
The richest 300 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3 billion. This inequality is no accident; those in power write the rules. We can change them. 
What a shame their video is so wrong.

I was immediately moved to clarify where this video had gone wrong and responded on Thingser (if you're curious and want to see the post and my comments on Thingser, click here). But I wanted to share with you here a more thoughtful response.

First, the complexity of the issue.

In a short blog post, it's impossible to explore - suffice it to say that poverty is not a Third World monopoly or an outcome of "under-development".

Extreme poverty exists in the developed world too and can be excruciating. Affluent Americans may believe this is not the case in the US, but that comfortable view is demolished in a new book just published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, with the arresting title: $2.00 A DAY, Living on Almost Nothing in America.

Written by two American academics, Kathryn J. Edin, a leading poverty researcher and sociologist teaching at John Hopkins University and H. Luke Shaefer, professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, it sheds light on the poor and explains how the number of destitute families in the US has more than doubled since 1996 to 1.5 million households, with some 3 million children. As Harvard professor William Julius Wilson writes in the New York Times:
This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what Michael Harrington's "The Other America" achieved in the 1960s - arousing both the nation's consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens. 
Oddly enough, just as this book came out, Hollywood once again focused on poverty in two new films (see NYT review here) - but this time, nothing like Charlie Chaplin's comedic approach.

Richard Gere stars in Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind, a film that explores homelessness in New York, here's the trailer:


And here's what Paul Bettany, the director of the other film, Shelter, has to say about his film featuring a homeless couple in New York, with his wife, actress Jennifer Connelly, in the role of a heroin addict and Anthony Mackie as an African immigrant:

Yes, he too worries about the "judgment" people have about poverty, their erroneous conviction that the poor are to blame for their predicament.

I haven't seen the film yet, but since it also focuses on romance and is not all about "dark lives in a dark place", I am willing to bet that it may be better than the other film at creating empathy for the poor.

Second, the role of the UN in fighting poverty.

The UN hopes to push the world into substituting profit-seeking with globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals that respect Nature and restore human dignity to everyone, including and especially the poor.

This has been ably explained by Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, in his latest book The Age of Sustainable Development  that he presents here:

If you don't have time now for his hour-long presentation (but I recommend you try to find the time, it's worth it), let me cut to the main point I want to make here:

Why the Rules org video is misleading:

(1) There is a suggestion that the First World benefits from the Third World via international trade and investment - thus creating poverty.
That's not the way it is; in fact,  it's the ultra rich in the Third World who "benefits" most from poverty - much more than anyone in the First World. As a matter of statistical and historical fact, really profitable trade always happens between countries at the same economic level (eg. Europe and America).  The roots of poverty are thus far more complex than "man exploiting man";

(2) Changing the financial and monetary system as the video suggests - even if one could do it with a magic wand, which is highly unlikely - would solve nothing.
It might even make matters worse and spread even more poverty as a result of the chaos it would provoke. One of the root causes of wealth is technological change...just as it is a root cause of poverty: progress destroys employment (and income) by removing the need for low skill jobs. With the current wave of increased robotization, even higher level jobs are at risk. This will require yet more efforts to re-balance jobs and skills through training and recycling. In this re-balancing process, education is key. And so is the defense of the environment: if resources like water and sand (as argued in my previous post) disappear because of continued "economic growth", the number of poor will increase exponentially. Hence the importance of reshaping growth in such a way that the Earth's resources are not depleted, i.e. that they remain "sustainable"; and that brings us straight to the key notion underpinning the UN Sustainable Development Goals;

(3) The argument that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN/SDGs) reflect Big Business's grab on the world is simpy wrong;  the UN/SDGs are not predicated on transnational corporations' investments in the Third World or designed to protect them, on the contrary.

The way debates are organized at the United Nations, it is not possible for Big Business, no matter how powerful, to highjack the agenda and obtain every time decisions that are favorable to itself.

There are people standing in the way and they've been fighting Big Business at the UN since the 1992 Rio Conference on the Environment and Development, the so-called "Earth Summit".

Over the past two decades, the importance and influence of civil society organizations at the UN has been constantly rising. And civil society is changing the cards at the UN. For example, indigenous populations are increasingly heard  through their representatives, even in fora as conservative as IFAD, a development bank for the rural world.

The UN has come a long way in the 70 years since it was born as an intergovernmental forum...

At the UN there are basically 3 big groups fighting for attention and trying to grab the world agenda for change:

(1) governments - the delegates who express the official view of their countries - including big business in some cases, like the US that often takes positions favorable to big corporations (but not so often when someone like Samantha Power is US Ambassafor to the UN);

(2) civil society representatives who are increasingly given the "right to speak" and influence the definition of UN/SDGs and adoption of the UN agenda. In UN-speak, this is known as setting up "mechanisms for stakeholder engagement" (for an example, see here the UNEP guidelines). Now, with hundreds of organizations accredited at the UN, civil society is itself highly diversified:
  1. human rights organizations, including the defense of women, workers etc (eg. Amnesty International, Human Watch...);
  2. humanitarians (Oxfam, Save the Children...);
  3. ecologists (World Resources Institute and its Access Initiative, Africa's FADE...)
  4. green business (some of them very honestly green, others not so much); 
  5. big corporations lobbies (that can also masquerade as green business as I just said, but they are quite visible!); 
  6. indigenous people, the most recent and a very fast rising group (eg. South American indians). 

(3) UN staff, the body of professionals - there is a core 45,000 UN civil servants but I estimate some 200,000 people world-wide share in UN values and actively work for them. When the UN Secretary General is able to obtain the advice from a key figure like Professor Sachs, the UN is in fact getting a very powerful voice in support of its "mission and vision".

These are people who, upon entering service, have pledged allegiance to the UN Charter and UN values of equality, dignity and freedom and have done so willingly or they wouldn't have joined the UN in the first place, considering the low level of salaries.

These people are idealists. 

Admittedly, there are exceptions, particularly among high level managers placed there thanks to political pressure from powerful governments like the US, Russia or China: they often (but not always) pursue the agenda of their political sponsors.

UN staff, by definition, is not allowed to speak at the UN but they do respond to questions asked by the delegates and more importantly, they prepare the agenda and documentation for conferences. They register and archive decisions taken and resolutions.

Little by little, those resolutions, unanimously agreed to, get added to a rising pile of international law: To protect and defend that "pile" is the task and duty of UN staff. This is how UN staff action is the source of "soft power" at the UN, at the service of the UN Charter and UN values (the subject of my upcoming book about the UN).

To fix the world is not easy and it won't be done fast. What is really needed to fight poverty are not angry words but concrete action. 

So to change things you need to be pragmatic and start with what you've got.

And go at it step-by-step.

And you need to get everyone around the table to discuss the matter openly - that's what the UN is for.

Mistakes will be made, we're already too late on the climate change question, what's been done so far is not enough - only Europe has tried but what it hasn't gone far enough. Let's hope that something concrete comes out of our next climate change conference, COP21 in Paris in December!

It's our last chance.


Sand is Most At-Risk Resource on Earth after Water

Sand mining - Screenshot taken from sand-wars website
Filmmaker Denis Delestrac made an extraordinary documentary in 2013 researching what was happening to sand, why the gold rush for sand - used in everything, from construction to glass - was inexorably leading to a collapse of human life on Earth. Unless we can do something to stop the loss of sand...

Yesterday I watched it on Arte TV and I unfortunately can't share it with you here in English, it's in French but it's well worth watching if you can:

Combined with Climate Change, as global warming leads to the rise of the seas by an expected average of one meter, some 100 million people living on the coastlines or on islands like the Maldives will find themselves without sand (a protective barrier) and under water by...2100.

That's 100 years earlier than I predicted in my specultive fiction novel Gateway to Forever: I thought it would take longer than 85 years, but American scientists (who no doubt know better than I do) think that's how fast it will happen.

"By 2100, if you want to see a beach, you will have to turn to History books..."

That's what Denis Delestrac says in his TED talk - in English! - that you can watch here:

A way out? Perhaps using "recycled glass sand" instead of sand. That's Denis Delestrac's suggestion at the end of his TED talk. Glass bottles can be recycled to create a perfectly usable sand, even birds mistake it for the real thing and lay their eggs on it, and of course it can be used in construction just like real sand.

The trouble is that it's expensive compared to sand you find on beaches or in the sea.

The real question is: how long will it take humanity to place a price on sand? That's a job for governments, they could put on a tax, provide subsidies to recycling etc There are many policies that can be pursued to put a price on sand and make business realize how short-sighted it is in its relentless pursuit of sand-mining - literally killing the goose with the golden eggs.

 Delestrac did his documentary in 2013 and talked about it on TED in the same year - have governments reacted since then?

No, not really.

Except the United Nations, and in particular UNEP, and that's very encouraging. Thumbs up for the UN staff who had the courage to put out a paper on this issue conveniently ignored by most politicians because of the huge lobbies of the sand-mining industry. Millions of dollars are at stake and big corporations won't let go.

Here's what the UNEP paper (March 2014) had to say:
Despite the colossal quantities of sand and gravel being used, our increasing dependence on them and the significant impact that their extraction has on the environment, this issue has been mostly ignored by policy makers and remains largely unknown by the general public.
The paper is well worth taking a few minutes to read (14 pages), it is an eye-opener. It concludes:
Sand and gravel represent the highest volume of raw material used on earth after water. Their use greatly exceeds natural renewal rates. Moreover, the amount being mined is increasing exponentially, mainly as a result of rapid economic growth in Asia...
A large discrepancy exists between the magnitude of the problem and public awareness of it. The absence of global monitoring of aggregates extraction undoubtedly contributes to the gap in knowledge, which translates into a lack of action. 
Therefore, to raise this issue on the political agenda, there is a need for:
  1. more in-depth research
  2. implementation of a monitoring mechanism of aggregates extraction and trade 
Anyone listening out there? 

Some places are receptive. The EU, especially the Netherlands since so much of it is already "under water", is concerned with coastal management. But it apparently pursues  a"sand nourishment" policy with techniques to deposit a layer of sand on the beach or seabed - even though, as Delestrac compellingly argues in his documentary, this is hardly a "final solution" as sand moves around and continues to disappear because of sand-mining. And in California, there is rising enthusiasm on the part of authorities for using "recycled aggregates" (see here).

But so far there's no global solution and the place to start doing this would be the United Nations. That 14-page UNEP paper is only a start. 

What is needed is a global political will to do something about the misuse of a resource that we now know is essential to our survival on this planet. 

Politicians wake up! Let's start by monitoring this issue and ask scientists to come up with solutions.

For more on the "sand wars" and the loss of sand, visit this website: http://sand-wars.com/


A Timely Thriller Featuring Iran's Nuclear Sting

This novel, Blind Scorpion: Iran's Nuclear Sting, lands right in the middle of the on-going debate around the recent agreement concluded with Iran about its nuclear program. In the coming weeks, this debate promises to heat up as the deal still needs approval from the American Congress since it involves the lifting of sanctions against Iran. This is something most Europeans want. European politicians are flocking to Iran, the British have just re-opened their embassy in Teheran.

In short, this book couldn't be more timely.

And fun. Unputdownable.

Though the premise is scary enough: what if Iran had already built its atomic bomb? What would it take to stop it?

The book is written by an Iranian-American in-the-know, Mr. Farsheed Ferdowsi, and it has been subsequently edited by best-selling author Mike Wells and republished with a new, enticing title: Blind Scorpion.

The two have been long-time friends since their college days at Vanderbilt University and Mike Wells describes his foray into this (for him) unusual kind of international thriller à la John LeCarré in the following terms:
When Farsheed decided to write this story, he had never tackled the writing of a novel before, and since we have been close friends ever since college, I agreed to be his mentor.  As he finished each chapter, I gave him detailed feedback and helped him keep the narrative tight, to maintain the high level of tension required to achieve the "unputdownable" reader engagement that I am so particular about.  When the manuscript was finished and polished, Farsheed published it himself in both paper and ebook format under another title (Mushroom in the Sand), but due to his busy schedule and family commitments, he was never able to put a serious effort into promoting it.  However, despite this limitation, Mushroom in the Sand garnered 122 Amazon reviews averaging 4.6 stars, which--interestingly--is almost exactly the same number of reviews/average rating that Lust, Money and Murder  book 1, 2 and 3  has (126 reviews and 4.6 stars average). 
Lust, Money and Murder (Book One is free) is of course Mike Wells own latest thriller, the kind of story his fans love and are used to read - though I would recommend they take a break and read Blind Scorpion, it is well worth it.

As to why Mr. Ferdowsi had no time for promoting his own book, this is easily explained. If you take a look at his biography (at the end of Blind Scorpion) you will learn that he is in fact a serial entrepreneur. Born and raised in Teheran, he entered the United States in 1973 to pursue a higher education. Armed with a bachelor's degree from Vanbderbilt University and a master's in structural engineering from U.C.Berkeley, he founded a business software development firm in 1979 and followed this with a string of companies in  technology information, notably PayMaxx ranked among the top 10 payroll service providers in the US. A busy man!

I just finished reading Blind Scorpion this week-end and wrote this review posted on Amazon:

Fast paced and suspenseful, it features a surprising range of highly likekable characters, in particular the sprightly and brilliant Dr. Shaheen, the Iranian-American scientist who is the hero of the story, and his beautiful Russian wife and their two teenage children, as well as his wife's father, lovable and grumpy General Pugachov. The latter has become friends with Colonel Nash, the steely Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA, both united in their fight against terrorism. Add to this gallery, the sexy TV reporter, the clever CIA agent and a range of unpleasant characters and villains, including the Iranian scientist who has developed the bomb and a violent Russian spy.
What I liked the most, however, in this well-written spy thriller, was the depiction of Iran, how it is remembered by Dr. Shaheen who left it as a young man, and how he finds the country changed when he returns there now. This is a thoroughly well-researched book by a person in the know, including fascinating details about making an atomic bomb (no fear, there are not enough details to actually build one!).

A highly recommended read for anyone who enjoys thrillers with a political edge.


Peace, Love and Romance for Baby Boomers

Back from my break...I  found this lovely  anthology, Peace, Love and Romance for Baby Boomers (like me) and as I had pre-ordered it, the book landed straight into my Kindle today, August 25, date of publication, flying in from the US though I live in Italy - Ah, the wonders of the digital age and exactly the kind of read I needed to extend the happy days of summer... As announced on Amazon (see here):
For a limited time, ten of today's hottest and bestselling authors bring you Peace, Love & Romance - a collection of full-length novels (some sweet, some sizzling!) all celebrating women who have loved, lost, and triumphed. 
And here's the enticing cover:

Even before publication, it was already ranked 158th in the Kindle Store in the category "women's fiction - humor" (on August 24). Impressive!

It is also available on other platforms: Barnes and Noble (click here), Kobo (here) and Apple iTunes (here).

An anthology organized by 10 authors...I was immediately curious about how they managed it and they were kind enough to answer my questions.

My first question: How did it all start? How did all 10 of you get together?  

Jennifer Theriot (author of Out of the Box Regifted) explains, answering all my questions at one go (it makes sense, the whole project started with her):

Diane Rinella and I are officially confirmed partners in crime. We’ve been friends for over two years and we talk almost every day by phone on my commute home from work. Nine months ago, I called her and told her I had an idea, to which she replied “Dear GAWD!”  Our constant ideas get us into trouble more often than not, so I spilled the details and she immediately said “Hell YES!”

From there, we went on a ‘do diligence’ hunt for the perfect mix of authors and books for the anthology.

Our main focus was books that were written about Boomer/GenX women – strong, and all of who had experienced heartache and triumphed. We laugh, because this process has been a nine-month ordeal – just like a pregnancy. It was ‘conceived’ and developed from there – complete with all the elements of a traditional pregnancy. Elation, skepticism, fear, tears, determination, more tears and a diet of organization, task assignment, daily affirmations and planning. I’m so happy with our choices…. the child we’ve birthed is one that we are so pleased to announce and have given the name, Peace, Love and Romance. What a beautiful name and a testament to women everywhere!

Diane Rinella (author of Scary Modsters and Creepy Freaks):  In a world where everyone seems to have published a book, finding authors for this set was a lot harder than anyone would expect. We had so many requirements -- the biggest ones being that the book had to be not only well written, but also a good fit. The author also had to be dedicated to success. Working on a set like this is like being a firefighter, because at any moment you may need to jump to action on an opportunity. The experience is grueling, and no one has time to pick up anyone's slack.

Robyn Roze (author of Chain of Title): How you got together: I was approached by an author in the anthology who'd read my book and thought it would be a good fit with the theme of the box set. I was slated as the tenth and final author. How things change! Within a few months, we went from ten authors down to four. We could've called it a day, but we believed in our message of celebrating women who have loved, lost, and triumphed. We stayed positive and focused, loaded our Kindles, and found six talented authors to join us on this journey.

Aubree Lane (author of Tahoe Blues):  I was asked to join the anthology when the first set of authors fell apart. Please don’t refer to me as part of the second string (I’m trying my best not too, lol). Jennifer, Diane, Christine, Kelly and I have known each other and our work well. It was inevitable we end up working together.

Dee Ernst (author of A Different Kind of Forever): This is easy! I was approached by one of the organizers and said ‘yes” right away.  Being part of an anthology, particularly one with these caliber of writers, was a no-brainer for me.

Nan Reinhardt (author of Sex and The Widow Miles): Honestly, I sort of came along toward the end and I think I got involved because Christine read Sex and the Widow Miles, liked it, and thought it would be a good addition to the anthology. I was surprised and flattered that they wanted me to participate. It's been lovely meeting other authors who write to this niche--Baby Boomers. We've been dismissed and ignored for such a long time even though we all know that women just get better as they age! I got so tired of reading books about little twenty-something’s who had no life experience and perfect bodies. I couldn't find the kind of heroines and heroes I wanted to read about, so I wrote them myself. Surprised the heck out of me that other women my age were interested enough to buy my books. Surprised me, but thrilled me too!

Christine Ardigo (author of Cheating to Survive): Just a few months into publishing my first books, I was asked to join the PLR group by Jennifer Theriot.  I remember clearly reading the message over and over again, shocked that anyone even knew who I was, and that they thought my book was a great fit for this anthology. Before even finding out all the details, I immediately said Yes, Yes Yes, and have learned so much about each author in the past 9 months.

Jill Cox Vogt (author of The Fizgig): Getting together with this group was meant to be. Rebecca Warner, an author I admire, was asked to be in the anthology, and when the authors were looking for a tenth contributor, she suggested that my novel The Fizgig would be a good fit. They discussed it, and the next thing I knew I was doing a happy dance because I was in.

Kelly Cozzone (author of Tropical Nightmares): I've been friends with Diane Rinella and Jennifer Theriot for a couple of years. They approached me about joining them in Peace, Love & Romance and I jumped at the chance to work with them again. We collaborated last summer on the anthology, Love, Honor and Hope and had a great time.

Rebecca Warner (author of Doubling Back To Love): Author Jennifer Theriot and I met on a book promotion site when we read and reviewed each other's books. Jennifer felt that my book would be a good fit for the Peace, Love, & Romance anthology, and was gracious enough to invite me to join her and nine other authors in this endeavor.

Q: What were the challenges over the 9 months it took you to put this together?

Diane Rinella: No one could decide on the darn cover! The minute we would be close to deciding, someone would toss in a money wrench!

Robyn Roze:  Building consensus is difficult enough when you're in the same room with people, let alone in cyberspace. Words read on a screen don't have a tone of voice, body language, or facial cues by which one can gauge mood or intent. It becomes incredibly important to interact and project from a positive, non-judgmental place. Otherwise, it would be quite easy to slide into disarray and lose the necessary momentum.

Aubree Lane: Trying to pull together ten authors who have commitments, deadlines, families, day jobs, along with a multitude of other things going on in their lives is almost impossible. Like Yoda says, “Do or don’t do. There is no try.”  You have to resign yourself to working a bunch of really late nights. It helps to have a bottle of wine on hand when it gets overwhelming.

Dee Ernst: My biggest challenge has been keeping up with some of these other writers!  Talk about energy - not to mention, becoming much more active on social media than I’m used to.

Nan Reinhardt: I've only been on board for the last three months, so I can't speak to the birth of the idea, but I would say figuring out how each of would fit into the plan was a big challenge. We all have different skills, different amounts of time and money that we can contribute to the cause. Some of us have full-time jobs that suck up so many hours in the day--I'm a freelance editor and I usually run several projects concurrently, so making time is a huge factor for me. Also, there is the experience thing. I've never done an anthology, never done any of the promotional events that the others have, so I'm flying blind frequently. I'm kind of a bad promoter--I'm shy and I'm not used to putting myself out there, so it's good that we have enough different personalities.

Christine Ardigo:10 different women with 10 different personalities, ideas, and opinions can either destroy a group, or bring out the best in each other.  Understanding, support, and encouragement along the way, can help each author grow and learn from one another. When more experienced authors guide the others in a loving way, it can only inspire them to want to help more. A good leader motivates the members, makes each one feel important, and appreciates all their hard work, knowing how stressful this could be.

Jill Cox Vogt: Accomplishing the success of this anthology is not without its challenges. How do I eat minestrone soup and type at the same time? How do I keep up with the group on Facebook when it is banned at work, and I can only sneak some peeks on my phone. How big do I let that pile of laundry grow in the living room while I promote Peace, Love, and Romance? Time management, getting together necessary tools such as a website! - and my needy computer skills in comparison to these savvy women's are at the top of my challenges list. I am inspired by others’ challenges as well. 

Kelly Cozzone: The challenges were trying to find the right mix of books and authors.  When you're working on a project such as this, it takes a ton of teamwork.  It's not a project to take on lightly.  Meshing personalities and strengths and weaknesses is a huge undertaking in order to make sure everything got done.  Thank goodness we're all thick skinned! LOL

Rebecca Warner: For me, the greatest challenge was keeping up with these savvy and experienced authors. They not only wrote great books, they also knew how to market those books through networking and social media--something which I had not learned to the same degree. But they were very generous in sharing their knowledge and pushing me to step up my game. 

Q: Advice  on how to do something as complex as this and do it well... 

Diane Rinella: Democracies are great, but if I had to do it all over again, I think I would go with majority rules. While I am thrilled that everyone bought in 100%, it made the process take forever.

Robyn Roze: The real estate maxim is: location, location, location. The anthology maxim should be: organization, organization, and organization. We each have different strengths and weaknesses. And it's important to allow each author in the group to leverage her strengths, but also be willing to step outside her comfort zone to learn new things. Doing so not only benefits the group and successful outcome of the project but the individual as well.

Aubree Lane: My best advice is to have a great plan. Then have a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Brace yourself for a wild ride, laugh when things go wrong and rejoice when they don’t.

Dee Ernst: I’m just taking orders here, so the only advice I have is to be lucky enough to fall in with some very savvy and hard-working women!

Nan Reinhardt: This is my first one, so I'm not the one to give advice. I can say that having experienced authors surely is important, people who know how things work and who can guide those of us who are newbies. Also, being organized seems to be very important and making sure we all agree on how things are going happen. We all signed a contract together--that was significant. But, as I said, I'm the greenhorn here and am learning a lot from the more experienced marketers and promoters in the group. I'm impressed as hell at their level of energy and their knowledge!

Christine Ardigo: Good organization of projects is important. Having a set schedule, following it, having one new task a day to work on and perfect before moving on to the next, is critical. Insuring each task is understood, perfected and completed, guarantees nothing is missed, everyone is up to speed, and no one gets lost. Communication in imperative as well, and all members should be included in every discussion so as not to confuse anyone. Of course, all 10 authors treated as equals, promotes close bonds and life long friendships. This can only strengthen the team, thus bringing out everyone's enthusiasm and pure enjoyment to work on this every single day for months on end. How lucky I am to found that kind of group. I hope you feel our excitement, too, when reading our stories!  I think we included a fantastic collection of novels that will resonate with every women in some way. Enjoy!

Jill Cox Vogt: For me, to do something and to do it well is a journey of thinking positively even when it’s gloomy and envisioning the outcome exactly how it should be even when fog creeps in. It is wanting other people to appreciate it as much as possible. I am often struck by a quote by Marie Curie:  “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
Yes, we must believe. Working with such a smart, savvy, skilled, talented, wonderful group of women makes it easy to believe. They have done far more than I have to make this anthology happen. They give me support and encouragement and help when I need it. They have truly become my friends.

Kelly Cozzone:  Decide on a theme, a leader, and stick too it. Make sure the leader is strong and able to multitask.  Diane took the bull by the horns and ran with it. She's done an incredible job too.  However, leading a project combining 10 books and 10 women authors is not for the faint of heart!!!

Rebecca Warner: To do something like this well, there has to be strong leadership within the group to set goals, and cooperative efforts on everyone's part to do whatever is necessary to meet those goals in a timely manner. We were lucky to have two strong leaders, Diane--who kept her foot in our back to push us along, and Jennifer, who gently took us by the hand and tugged us along. They kept us focused and productive, though all of the authors have a lot of self-motivation. We built a team, and developed the same mentality for winning--which we will do when we hit a best-seller list!

Thank you all for answering my questions...And I believe we have all learned for your experience and we are (certainly I am!) looking forward to reading your books.

UPDATE: Six days after publishing, this book had already garnered 22 customer reviews and 91% of them rating 5 stars. Unsurprisingly, the book has been pushed up in Amazon's best-selling rankings (date of observation: 31 August 2015):