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text 2018-11-27 08:56
Abandoned Dreams contest entry commentary costs $116.45
Abandoned Dreams - Rod Raglin

This year I decided to spend some of my paltry marketing budget entering my novels in a few of the many contests offered on the internet.


I may as well have flushed the funds down the toilet for all the good it did. Most contests hastily cashed my cheque and then didn’t even bother spamming me to advise that I didn't win, place or show.


These for sure are cash grabs for financially beleaguered writing sites, festivals, literary publications or outright scam artists.


The exception so far has been the Writer's Digest Self Published Book Awards that provided a brief commentary from an anonymous judge.


So here are Judge Number 54 comments regarding my submission to The 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Not a bad review, but then it did cost $116.45 ($99.49 entry fee + $10.30 postage + $6.66 for the price of the book and shipping)



Entry Title: Abandoned Dreams

Author: Rod Raglin

Judge Number: 54

Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction


 * Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.



Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4


Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4


Production Quality and Cover Design: 4


Plot and Story Appeal: 4


Character Appeal and Development: 4


Voice and Writing Style: 4



Judge’s Commentary


   This novel uses a distinctive succession of first-person sections that combine to offer an incisive perspective on the loves and fortunes of several characters whose lives intersect in tortured relationships. Musings and actions by the characters as the story progresses create a running succession of candid revelations. Along the way, readers get intimate understandings of what motivates the characters, who cross a wide age range, as they seek to reach their social and artistic goals. Literary and artistic matters including the drive for fame and creativity, as well as cutting criticism, are refreshingly realistic and provide illuminating insights into the minds of writers and artists. How the past and present link up and influence their current lives and activities is skillfully portrayed. Generational aspects, including a visit to an ashram in the U.S., are woven into the multiple relationships and ambitions that stir the narrative.

       Overall, the dreams of the past blend into the aspirations of the present as the force of character persists.

         More suspense in what will happen, especially as the past is recalled, would enhance the book’s drive. More chapters should end on a suspenseful note to make readers wonder what will happen next. The dialogue is snappy with good use of interior monologue while showing the mind-sets of the characters.

     The title is intriguing and spurs interest. The first two lines of the subtitle work, but the third one raises the question of who the “they” is. Perhaps “life” could be used instead. The cover image is interesting, but consider placing an easel between the chairs and a manuscript on one chair to better reflect the contents and themes of the novel.


You can purchase Abandoned Dreams from my Amazon Author's Page at



Stay Calm, Be Brave, Watch for the Signs

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review 2013-05-02 04:15
The story of a modern day slave-master
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man - John Perkins

It is a little ironic that I am sitting in McDonalds, the flagship of corporate America, writing a commentary on a book about the evils of corporate America. Maybe that is why they wouldn't let me onto their free wi-fi. Anyway, I have got internet (thankyou Telstra) simply by turning my mobile phone (or is it a smart phone) into a modem, and simply connect my laptop to it (or turn it into a wi-fi hotspot, though I don't like doing that in a public place). Anyway, I am just killing some time in the city before I jump on the Airport bus to fly off to Sydney (only for a night though).

Anyway, this book is about debt, but not able the type of debt that we find ourselves shackled to, though the two types of debt are basically the same. Okay, not all debt is equal, and many companies (in fact all of them) tend to go into debt to further their operations. However, that form of debt is what I call investment debt, or the more technical term, gearing. However, I do at times wonder how it is that companies really make a profit when there is a huge amount of debt on their books. Is that profit really profit or is it only illusionary? I guess that was the question that came out of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 where companies that were booking massive profits on top of crippling debt only to have the whole house of cards come crashing down.

However, this book is not about corporate debt either, it is about sovereign debt, and not any form of sovereign debt, but debt that is thrust upon third world countries. The nature of the economic hitman that Perkins is confessing about is that he goes into these countries and offers loans to these countries for the purpose of development, however due to the nature of the debt (and the governments as well) the money actually does not go to development, and what ends up happening is that the country is suddenly shackled under immense debt that it cannot pay back and any money that the country does make goes to servicing the debt. As such the bond holders then move in on the country and begin to carve up whatever resources that they can get their hands on, including, but not limited to, water.

This happened in Bolivia, where the bond holders pretty much took ownership of all of the country's water, including that which fell out of the sky. As such, nobody could actually collect water unless they paid the bond holders for the privilege of collecting the water. Mind you it backfired when the population of Bolivia took to the streets and forced the bond holders to back down. However, this is not the case in every country that is out there, and in fact the people who end up servicing the debt is generally not the government, but the population through prohibitive taxes.

In a way it is the means of prevent developing countries from actually developing – keep them in debt and by keeping them in debt they cannot ever be in a position to challenge the powers that be. This is nothing new because in times past some governments, such as the British and the Americans, were known as creditor nations and they would use their clout as creditor nations to keep other, debtor, nations under their thumbs. However things have changed and the countries that used to be creditor nations no longer are. In fact there is probably only one creditor nation out there now, and that is China (and maybe Russia, as well as parts of the Middle East).

The world has changed a lot since the era of the British Empire because back then if corporations existed they tended to be an extension of the government. Look, in places like China and Russia they still are (and you could also argue that the Russian Mafia is an extension of the Russian Government), however outside these states the main creditors are no longer governments but private corporations. In fact, you will probably discover that much of the American debt is actually in the hands of the corporations. No longer are corporations the extension of the government, but the government (at least in America) has become an extension of the corporations (not that there is anything new about that, since Butler Smedley openly admitted that many of the wars that he fought in were primarily for American Corporate interests).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/605601928
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review 2013-01-18 10:45
A lesson in doublespeak and the futility of sanctions
Terrorism and War - Howard Zinn,Anthony Arnove

I guess the difference between terrorism and war is the same as that between a pirate and and emperor, namely that the emperor acts on the authority of a state where as a pirate acts upon his own authority, but when we raise the question of the source of that authority we wonder whether there is any real difference between a pirate and an emperor. As the pirate king said to Alexander the Great, the only difference between the two was that Alexander had an army.

The same would apply to the terrorist and the freedom fighter, namely that one acts on the authority of a state while the other acts upon their own authority, but even then those distinctions become blurred. The French Resistance acted on their own authority during World War II but also acted in the interests of the Allies, though theoretically were probably no better than the insurgents that acted against the Americans in Iraq and Vietnam. In fact, the insurgents in Vietnam were acting under the defacto authority of the North Vietnamese.

However the idea from this book is not the question of the source of the authority that allows one to go to war and forbids the other. When Saddam invaded Kuwait without authority he was punished, but when the United States invaded Iraq without any authority, no punishment was metered out. It is much easier to place economic sanctions against a tinpot dictatorship than it is place them against an economic superpower, however that, in many cases is changing. For instance, manufacturing is moving outside of the United States, and the United States is no longer considered to be the sole superpower with the rise of China. However, the problem is that the Chinese and American economies are so intertwined that it would be hard, if not impossible, for China to survive with sanctions against the United States. Yet, we also must remember that there was a very similar situation in the lead up to World War I with a similar symbiotic relationship between England and Germany.

The question of sanctions against a superpower also brings us back to the Napoleonic Wars. Here Napoleon attempted to place sanctions against England in an attempt to starve England economically. Basically it did not work, and while he had control of the European Continent, he did not have complete control, which was why he had to invade Russia. Further, it did not actually starve England because England was a sea power who was able to draw upon her colonies to survive. She could be isolated from Europe without facing any ill effects, and in fact she had blockaded Napoleon's ports and also destroyed his navy at Trafalgar, which gave her unprecedented control of the seas.

Then again who suffers in a war? The easy answer is that it is the civilians. When economic sanctions are levelled against a country it is not the ruling elite who suffer, and it is not necessarily their army that suffers either but it is the average civilian. If the idea of sanctions is to starve and weaken the power of a rogue dictator it generally does not work. Take North Korea for instance: despite years of economic sanctions the army is still strong enough to keep the leaders in power. The leaders still have their luxurious palaces and the army still has food in their stomach, but the average civilian is struggling daily to stay alive. What is happening is in fact the opposite: the civilians are becoming weaker which means their ability to rebel against the leadership is sapped away while the position of the leadership becomes stronger because the population is no longer able to rebel against an army that is still being fed.

The best way to undermine such a power is to undermine the army because it is the army that keeps the ruling elite in power. We are seeing this in North Africa, where we have Gadaffi's army deserting him forcing him to rely upon a mercenary force. Okay, without Western intervention, Gadaffi would have won, and if Gadaffi had enough money to support an army, then he has enough money to support a mercenary force. In the situation of many of these people there does not actually seem to be any concern that they will be killed because even though Gadaffi was on the losing side, he was still able to bring mercenaries in. I guess it is the whole risk/reward principle. People still gamble despite the knowledge that the odds are weighed against them because of that small chance that the odds will shift, even for a moment, into their favour.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/510344718
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review 2012-08-24 09:11
Roddick's rant against modern capitalism
Globalization: Take It Personally - Anita Roddick

From reading this book I get the feeling that the author really has a bee in her bonnet about the nature of corporate America, and in a way I don't blame her. As we are probably aware (and for the benefit of those who do not) Anita Roddick was the founder and chief executive officer of a chain of stores known as The Body Shop. Any of us living in the developed world have probably heard of this store, and while I generally only go and shop there to buy presents for women, the idea behind the store is commendable, and that is that she would only stock products that were not tested on animals.

However, the problem arose that if she were to be able to expand the store to the extent that she wanted to she needed to become that which she hated, and that is a part of corporate America, which meant borrowing money from banks and listing on the New York Stock Exchange. It is all well and good to set up a business with an ethical foundation and an ethical outlook, but the problem is that once you seek to raise capital from the capitalists, there has to be a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is to hand control of the company over to those you hate. While raising capital through share placements can still keep you in control of the company, you suddenly begin to find that the shareholders, and the shareholders that tend to have the most control are the institutional holders such as the investment houses and the banks, are only interested in one thing: profit.

I won't go into any further details regarding the pitfalls that have since come about with regards to the relentless pursuit of profit, as came about in the global financial crisis, but profit was never Roddick's guiding motive, but rather the creation of a more ethical and environmentally responsible corporate environment. However, the problem arises that such a basis is never really a profitable enterprise. For instance, it is much more expensive to produce organic food as opposed to producing food using modern, chemically enhanced and genetically engineered, processes, which means that the end consumer will look at the two products, and go for the cheaper alternative. Further, rigorous testing tends to be much more expensive than simply throwing some half tested genetically engineered brand onto the market, and while the ideal result is bumper crops, it is far too expensive to wait for the results of rigorous testing, so bribes are thrown about, and a substandard product is released.

As for the testing of products on animals, we come to an even bigger problem. Granted, I do not support the testing of products on animals, and one of the main reasons for this is that animals are not human. Just because a product is not harmful to an animal does not necessarily mean that it is not harmful to a human. Consider this for instance: I could feed something to a dog that the dog will eat and go on its merry way, however if I were to eat the same thing I would get really sick. In the alternative, I can eat chocolate (well, sort of, too much makes me sick and I occasionally get an allergic reaction to it, however for the point of argument, humans can eat chocolate) but if I were to feed chocolate to a dog, the dog will die. So, my argument is that in the long run testing on animals is not necessarily going to produce the result that we are looking for, so why do it?

There are lots of books like this out in the market, and I would encourage people to go out and read them. There is so much going on in this world that we blind ourselves too, and we also have much more rights and powers than any other middle class person in history has ever had, and as such we should be prepared to educate ourselves as to what is going on in the world and we should be prepared to take a stance against many of the evils that we are confronted with, however, I should also point back to history to outline how progress develops, and in many cases progress came about because people took to the streets and said to the government that this is not right.

The example I use is the underpaid workers in third world export processing zones. I will agree that the treatment and the working conditions that these workers are facing is appalling in the extreme, but so were the conditions of the working class in 19th century America and England. However, if we go to these nations now we find that many of the working classes are living quite comfortably, but this was because people took to the streets and demanded better living standards. However, on the flip side, I remember reading an article by Frederick Engels that outlined the living standards of the Irish in Manchester, and it was appalling. However, this was not because they were paid bad wages, to the contrary, they were paid quite decent wages, however they did not have the financial skills to be able to use that money, so ended up simply using it to buy alcohol. They had no need for furniture, they were used to mud floored huts, so that is what they did with the houses, simply lived in a state they were used to. The same is the case for the Australian aboriginals in the homelands. We westerners are appalled at their living standards, but that is how they live and how they like to live. Just because they don't have comfy sofas or television sets, does not mean that they want them. However, the problem with them is not the living standards, but the fact that we are forcing Western values onto them, which includes tobacco and alcohol. It is these two vices that are destroying their communities, not the houses. For centuries they didn't even have houses, but we came along, said that to be a civilised human being you must live in a beautiful house with a white picket fence. True to Asterix, they tapped themselves on the head and said 'these white people are crazy'.

It is a shame that they didn't then turn around and lock us up on Christmas Island to be processed as illegal refugees, because, honestly, that is what we were.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/399686375
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review 2012-05-29 13:11
Christianity in a consumer society
Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces: Putting God in Place - Jon Pahl

I must say that it is always refreshing when one stumbles upon a book that has been written by a Christian who actually gets it. What I mean by that is being able to understand the nature of the world, of God, and our relationship with both. One of the strange things that I have noticed is that in many cases Christians seem to live double lives, and in a lot of cases when the pastor at the front of the church points that out, we usually look at him with that look on our face that says, 'he certainly cannot be referring to me'. That is probably the greatest danger that we face as Christians, namely seeing all the wrong in those around us but refusing to look into ourselves and actually seeing that what we see in others is actually a reflection of ourselves.

Now, we can say that Christians can either put themselves too far into the world and only attend church as a matter of course, or they can lock themselves inside the church and have little to do with the world, and both ways have their dangers. However one thing that we, as Western Christians, fail to see is that the two aspects I have laid out relate more to other people as opposed to the world in which we live. In many cases we judge our godliness based upon who we associate with and what we do with these people. For instance we might only hang around with our friends from church, go to the beach, maybe have a dinner in town, and generally spend our time being good people. On the other hand we could spend all of our time with friends from work or uni, drink excessively in the pub, and go to strip clubs. I suggest that both ways are as bad as each other because while we are associating with our Christian friends we may not actually be taking advantage of that. In many cases, the only difference between the two examples above is what we are doing with our friends, but in neither case would we be seen as being really Christian. Sure, we spend our time with our Christian friends, but together we never pray, we never read the Bible, and we never share with each other our pains and our encouragements.

This is probably drifting away from the premise of this book, but I believe that it is important because we are called to set ourselves apart from the world, but we never truly understand what is meant by that statement. Let us consider the world of Ancient Rome. The centre of public life was the Forum. It was the market and it was also where the magistrates met to dispense justice. However, there was a very overt religious element over the place and in many cases (particularly in Rome) the Forum was dominated by the local temples. The Roman Forum has the Saturnine Temple standing over it and no matter where you stood you would be able to see it.

In times past, the centre of public life was the village square, and in many cases all of the important buildings could be found around or near it, the church, the courthouse, and the market. However, things have changed in the last fifty years and the centre of public life has moved out of the village square and into the shopping mall. In many cases the building is so huge that it is a cathedral in and of itself. How many churches do you find in shopping malls? Well, in all my time, I have only ever found one, and that church owned the mall (and I was quite impressed with that as well). In a way we have rejected our spirituality and shifted it from God to the marketplace and that is what this book is about.

Many of us will jump up and say 'yes, that is so true', but I think that I better let you know that Pahl is writing to Christians, and so am I. The ungodly and the heathen simply don't care, and as far as I am concerned, they can do what they like. However, it is us who have moved ever further away from understanding and knowing God. Church has become little more than a social club, albeit, a rather cultish like club. I would not say every church is like that, but what do you do? I many ways we like to push God away from our world and imprison him in heaven. Sure, we behave ourselves, but do we really love? Do we show love for the poor and disadvantaged? In fact, do we show love to those whom we do not see eye to eye? Do we surround ourselves with the beautiful and compliant people, and if somebody challenges us, do we fly into a rage, or argue bitterly despite not having a leg to stand on? I guess these are the questions that I have to ask myself, for, as Plato once said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.'


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/339091962
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