Tips for Indie Writers: How to Create Your Own Book Trailer with Power Point

Okay, just made another book trailer and thought I’d reblog this. I’ve also updated the original links since the original videos were updated and thus removed. My latest and greatest is here: https://youtu.be/G3xRKqmz7qw . [NOTE:–My friends at Fresh Ink Group helped touch it up, but the bulk was done on Power Point. You can find the original on my YouTube Channel here https://youtu.be/jPryRDll9ZQ.]

One thing I learned making this video that wasn’t necessary for the others was the need for transitions from slide to slide. If you use the same background for the entire video, it’s not necessary. But if you change the pictures, you need a transition. It’s a whole lot of fun to do and exercises another part of your creative side. These are very basic, but tremendous fun. Give it a try!

Marcha's Two-Cents Worth

booksinboxBook trailers have become a popular means to draw attention to your book. The main advantage they have over other types of promotional material is their ability to include sound, specifically music. As I’m sure you’re aware, music can set a mood quicker than anything else and reaching a person at the emotional level helps prepare them to receive and accept your message. You can hire a professional to create a trailer for you or you can put one together yourself. If you have Microsoft Office then you should have Power Point which is the only software you need to create a simple but effective video trailer. Besides that you only need three things:

  1. Background picture
  2. Music
  3. Catchy phrase, quote or other hook

Yes, it really is that simple to get started. Don’t worry, I’m going to take you through the process, step by step.

Background Picture

This should be…

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A Right or a Privilege?

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Since when did coming to America, more specifically the USA, become a right instead of a privilege? When did the beckon-call of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” become license to come here to promote violence or expect to be taken care of without maintaining certain standards of behavior? Coming here to make demands is not how it was intended to work.

America was once known as a grand melting pot, a nation of immigrants, many fleeing tyranny, others seeking the “American Dream.” Unless you’re a Native American, your ancestors at some point were immigrants. A melting pot, however, implies blending in, becoming part of the whole in a harmonious way. A country is founded on common standards of behavior and beliefs enforced by the rule of law. A common language is another important feature.

Democracies fail due to too much diversity. Too many people demanding that everyone else bow to their demands. Too much criticism and intolerance on the part of many coming here. Too many expectations to be taken care of at the expense of the government which, of course, is funded by the taxpayers. This entitlement attitude has gotten out of hand and will destroy us morally and economically. The melting pot and American Dream were never intended to tolerate destructive, radical behavior. Today we are no longer a melting pot, but a lumpy, unappetizing stew of flavors that clash instead of blend.

Back in 1907 Theodore Roosevelt said: “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

This is the essence of the “melting pot” concept and in the early 20th century it worked. But it has been abandoned, resulting in the pigs’ breakfast we see in our society today. Sometimes to gain something, you need to let something go. Becoming a true American isn’t compatible with clinging to old beliefs that are probably why you left your homeland in the first place.

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Ellis Island

I am growing very weary of President Trump being criticized for his recent action stopping the inflow of refugees. Place the blame where it belongs: On terrorists and radical Islam, not the President trying to protect the USA from the chaos we see in Europe. Maybe “Making America Great Again” involves returning to the melting pot concept. Maybe those seeking refuge in the USA need to leave some of their beliefs and expectations behind.

Freedom of religion doesn’t mean imposing it, often violently, on everyone else. Tolerance and peaceful coexistence is required, two qualities antithetical to Islam. If the USA yields to their demands, it fits the old analogy of letting the head of the camel into the tent. As long as there’s a risk that those who wish to destroy us are among the refugees, as has been demonstrated in Europe, calling a time-out to assure such are not included is the logical thing to do. It only makes sense to learn from others’ mistakes. Unfortunately, many innocent people are caught in a snare intended for others. But when change is required, that isn’t unusual. It’s not easy to stop a train. Sometimes you just have to slam on the brakes, even though sometimes it results in derailment. How many have been students pursuing a college degree when the requirements change midway or farther through their coursework? Such is life.

Cities generally have clusters of communities where those who share a common heritage or ethnicity gather to live. It’s natural for human beings to want to socialize with those who share common beliefs and cultural roots. However, as these communities grow, they can lose touch with the fact they are just one faction in a nation of many. They develop views contrary to the well-being of the nation as a whole. Tolerance dissipates and arrogance takes it place, wanting to impose their will on others. They want to destroy the very principle of freedom that allowed them to come here in the first place and mold America into the nation they left behind. Rather than contribute to America’s strength, they contribute to her potential downfall.

I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with America. There are many policies I don’t agree with, including many President Trump is promoting. I believe we should protect the environment and wildlife. I believe that corporations such as Big Oil, Monsanto, and Big Pharma have too much power and control, that the healthcare industry is horribly broken. Gutting regulatory agencies is definitely not the way to fix these out-of-control industries. I believe we should take care of our own working poor, military veterans, and Native Americans before those who would seek to destroy us. As a nation we are beset by a multitude of problems, but ignoring one does not solve the others.

I believe in common sense which, as has been said before, is not all that common. Rather, selfishness reigns. But we have to start somewhere and get on the same page. Those who believe coming to America is a right and not a privilege are the ones who have created the immigration crisis we see today. We need to return to the “melting pot” concept, which is what made America great in the first place. Diversity without cooperation is a recipe for disaster, thus that lumpy, unappetizing stew that will surely cause heartburn.

It’s been said that democracies don’t work in families or prisons. They also tend to fail when a nation becomes a mass of screaming children, all wanting their own way. Unless someone steps up and draws the line, enforcing the law, history has taught us that what follows is usually a dictatorship. Common sense and compromise are required to save us. Tantrums and making unreasonable demands will eventually lead to an even less fortunate situation as the government is forced to restore order and safety to the populace at large, as is its responsibility.

Pardon another cliché, but those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Why Democracies Fail

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Whether or not you have any belief in metaphysics, it seems the severe weather plaguing the country today serves as an interesting commentary on protests that spanned the nation and even the world this past weekend. The winds of change are seldom a gentle breeze.

While some were sipping champagne in celebration of the events associated with Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, others were crying in their beer. Of course, for the past eight years of the Obama administration, these sentiments were reversed. Thus the pendulum swings again.

It’s been said and proven throughout history that the average lifetime of a democracy tends to be right around 200 years. The USA has currently survived for 240. Beating the odds? I doubt it.

Unlikely as it may sound, the insights I’ve gained as a professional astrologer have helped explain why I believe this is so. Here’s the Readers’ Digest version of the stages I’ve recognized, without the astrologese:

  1. A nation is founded on the principles of freedom by a group with common standards and beliefs which unify them. Unifying factors often include religion and a common language. A set of governing laws are set in place to keep society protected and under control.
  2. Over time, freedom results in a proliferation of beliefs, some of which are contrary to those on which the nation was founded and possibly its laws as well.
  3. If these factions are tolerant and peaceful, coexistence can be achieved. If not, protests and demonstrations ensue. Diversity in many cases eventually turns confrontational and combative, particularly if those involved feel oppressed or violated.
  4. When protests become disruptive, violent or destructive and are contrary to the rule of law, it’s the government’s job to restore order. If leaders don’t do their job, protests continue to escalate until they can no longer be tolerated. At that point, they either prevail and effect an overthrow of the status quo, or they are squelched.

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  1. If a heavy hand is required to restore order, then a dictatorship, the usual successor to a democracy, assumes power, silencing the dissenters by whatever means necessary.

Not a pretty picture, is it? I see Donald Trump taking over this country somewhere between Stages 4 and 5.

There is such a thing as too much freedom when either tolerance is absent or extremism is present, thus causing some factions to want to eradicate or control those with opposing beliefs. In a country that has polarized into a two-party system, extremism is particularly likely. As these ideologies become farther and farther separated, both eventually abandoning country’s the founding principles, the populace is forced to choose one or the other, even though in many cases their true beliefs may lie somewhere in the middle. I can see positive aspects of both prevailing parties, but cannot endorse either 100%. However, when election time rolls around, I’m forced to make a choice. I can remember more elections in which I voted against someone as opposed to for. That, in itself, is a sad commentary.

For a while, as one party gains power and the pendulum swings their way, its opposing factions will be quite disenchanted. After a while, this discontent reaches critical mass and the opposition wins the next election. Then the pendulum swings the other way. The more antithetical beliefs and values become, the stronger the desire to gain complete control and annihilate the other, which inevitably leads to corruption. Or as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. This cannot go on forever.

Sadly, both sides accuse the other of hate. That is what disagreement evolves into when issues are volatile and so extreme that compromise and/or mutual understanding become impossible.

The United States is at a very critical stage of its evolution as a country. Ironically, it was never intended to be a democracy. It was designed as a Constitutional Republic. But given the freedom granted to its citizenry, it’s no wonder it has trodden the same path. Those original laws set in place by the Founding Fathers to maintain order were gradually repealed as they offended the masses. And here we are.

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There are too many factions, some easily given to violence, too many languages, too many religions, special interests and various other issues that divide us. Some revere Old Glory, others desecrate her. Some believe the environment should be preserved, others that it’s expendable. And this doesn’t even consider the corruption and corporatism that has sullied the entire system. This begs the question of who’s organizing the more violent protesters and in some cases even paying them? And why? To drive us more quickly to stage 5?

Thinking America can be put back together is like upending a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and expecting it to land on the floor assembled. Astrology shows the USA’s evolution quite clearly. Interestingly, it’s course is entirely independent of who’s in the Whitehouse. Either way, the future does not look bright.

5-Stars for “Rarity from the Hollow”by Robert Eggleton

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At first I didn’t know how or where to begin to categorize this story. Two sitcoms, “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Third Rock from the Sun”, come to mind.  It’s clearly in the Sci-Fa genre, a mixture of science fiction and fantasy, always effective for establishing an environment ripe for just about anything to happen. I must say that once I got past the first third of the book, which could be a bit troubling due to the horrific living conditions and home environment of the young heroine, Lacy Dawn, that I laughed–a lot.

The author’s style is unconventional, which I consistently admire, at least when it works, which it did. Written in an omniscient viewpoint, it took a little while to get used to the inner dialog of all the characters. Each individual’s spoken statements were typically followed by an italicized blurb of what they were really thinking. While at first it was confusing, it was nonetheless effective in getting to know the characters.

The story itself is definitely unique as well. It centers around a young girl named Lacy Dawn who lives in poverty in a dysfunctional and abusive rural environment. This is not ever expressed in a horribly graphic manner and does a great job of setting the tone and setting, though there were times I was worried about whether it would get worse. Much to my relief, it didn’t. Her father, Dwayne, is a Gulf War vet with a severe case of PTSD. Her mother, Jenny, continually reminds her daughter (as well as herself) that Dwayne “used to be a good man.” Their neighbor, Tom, is a good friend of the family with a “secret garden” that he pays Lacy Dawn to tend.  The produce involved is not so much mystical as illegal, given that its marijuana.  Needless to say, numerous joints are rolled in the course of the story.

Lacy Dawn believes that it’s a child’s responsibility to fix one’s parents. This is certainly different than the usual practice to blame one’s parents. She’s not only highly intelligent, but has been chosen to save the Universe, a task for which she is being groomed by DotCom, an android who has arrived from elsewhere in the cosmos and lives in his spaceship on a nearby hill. At first it was difficult for me to figure out whether DotCom as well as Lacy Dawn’s conversations with the trees and her deceased friend, Faith, plus her ability to float “Roundabout” to visit her spacey friend, were simply part of a child’s vivid imagination. Either way, it was believable and contributed to the mood of the story.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory so won’t say anything further about the basic story, other than to say that the remainder is entertaining. It’s loaded with plenty of raw humor along with interstellar jaunts to strange new worlds populated with numerous aliens. The characters were definitely well fleshed-out by their hilarious inner dialogs, reaction to various situations, and crude honesty.

Underlying all this, however, at a deeper level, is a rather sad, even tragic, commentary on our society. The fact that such situations exist is no secret. Otherwise, the story would not have been so believable. Neither is there any magical or interstellar entity out there to rescue those caught in the trap of poverty, need and abuse. So often the thought patterns of those living in such conditions revolve around sexual satisfaction, a good cannabis harvest, and whether the food stamps will last until the end of the month.

My only criticism of the story itself, at least at the superficial level, is that toward the middle it felt a bit disjointed. The plot broke down somewhat with too many “shopping trips” to “The Mall” where momentum was lost. The ending, while satisfying, was slightly less than I’d hoped for.

Thus, you may wonder why I awarded this story five stars. That’s because it made me think. Very few stories I’ve read recently manage to do that. There’s sufficient symbolism to place this story soundly in the literature category. What better disguise for difficult topics than humor?

There’s Lacy Dawn, the child who’s been exposed to and seen things no ten year old should, who has genius potential and wise beyond her years. Fixing her parents versus blaming them, what a concept. Then there’s DotCom, the android from another world, who’s there to help Lacy Dawn achieve her destiny, yet he begins to evolve and become a bit too human under the influence of people who would best be described, albeit rudely, as white trash.

The materialism of The Mall, principles of capitalism, what constitutes a celebrity or inspires human motivation to excel or achieve can all be found lurking beneath a raw and sometimes vulgar look at the human condition. Even the ending holds a powerful message when looked upon more deeply. Who’s really in charge and is it a higher or lower lifeform? The answer to that is definitely politically incorrect, a term invented to cover up that which will ultimately destroy civilization if we continue to yield to its misguided allure.

If you want a cleverly orchestrated story saturated with sci-fi and fantasy and packaged with plenty of crude, bathroom humor, you’ll enjoy this book tremendously. If you can’t deal with coarse language, don’t even bother. If you enjoy reading stories at a deeper level and analyzing what they’re really trying to say, you’ll likewise enjoy it, probably even more. Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ecopy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Interview with Simon Jones, Author of “Fall of Empires”

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MF: As a self-declared history buff, do you recall what first drove your interests backward in time?

SJ: I have been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember. As a very young boy I remember my father and grandfather spending hours with me playing with toy soldiers and telling me stories from history. My grandfather made a replica warship out of a tea trolley with sections of broomstick for cannons and a hidden cassette player inside which played ‘Hearts of Oak’. He also built a replica Saturn V and a mock up of the surface of the moon which covered the entire dining room table and taught me about the space race. My parents took me all over the place to castles and museums and my Mum, who also loves history, encouraged me to read historical books from an early age. I also had a wonderful history teacher, Mr Bastable, who could make even the dull bits of history interesting. With all those great influences I was always going to grow up loving history.

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MF: It certainly sounds as if you were primed by your upbringing to love history! Have you travelled to many of the locations relevant to your books? Which one(s) inspired you the most?

SJ: I have been fortunate to have travelled to lots of great historical sites around the world although there are still lots more on my list. Visiting Egypt and Rome whilst writing ‘The Battles are the Best Bits’ were hugely inspirational and I incorporated my memories of those visits into the book. There is something very powerful about standing on the very spot where great events happened and you can feel the resonance of them somehow. Sadly most of Fall of Empires takes place in Syria and Iraq which are not very tourist friendly these days. I have been to Istanbul which also features heavily, though apart from the Hagia Sofia and the walls there is not much left of the old Byzantine Constantinople.

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MF: That is so true about historical sites. You can definitely feel their complexity. When you read about an historical period, do you typically picture yourself living during that time?

SJ: I think you have to. Not in a fantasizing sort of way but in terms of your outlook, your values and your expectations. I don’t think you can write objectively about history either as fiction or non-fiction unless you take a step back from your 21st century based values and judge people and events by the standards of the time in which they occurred. In ‘The Battles are the Best Bits’ I found myself justifying acts of slaughter which today would be judged as war-crimes as perfectly reasonable actions under the circumstances. The ancient world was a much more violent place than the modern world and human rights and the value of human life were seen very differently. This was a world in which the destruction of an entire city and the slaughter, rape and enslavement of its population was a legitimate act of war. To write about this period effectively you have to remove yourself somewhat from the here and now. Dealing with these events objectively I think gives them even greater impact in the mind of the modern reader.

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MF: The context is definitely a huge factor that takes some effort to understand. Even today cultural differences prevent many from understanding others’ actions.

Your book “Fall of Empires” earned over 280,000 reads on Wattpad, which is amazing! At what point did you decide to take the plunge and publish your work as a print book?

SJ: In some ways I regret the decision as there is no doubt that by sharing your work freely you reach far more readers than you do by charging money for it. I decided to ultimately publish the book as a result of the positive reaction to it from readers and from the site administrators who obviously see a lot of books. So I was confident it was of sufficient caliber to warrant publication. I already had one book in print so was under no illusions how hard it is to reach readers in such a saturated marketplace. I have a very limited appetite for self promotion however so I only have myself to blame.

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MF: I totally understand your attitude toward self-promotion since I feel much the same way. Writing is the fun part, marketing, not so much, though I do enjoy helping others promote their work.

As a history aficionado, do you have a favorite historical figure? If so, why?

SJ: You would probably expect me to name a military figure from the ancient world but I would say my favourite historical figure is Charles Darwin. His contribution to science goes without saying but his journals reveal an adventurous and daring spirit. During the voyage of the Beagle Darwin undertook numerous arduous journeys into the interior. He braved hostile natives, inhospitable terrain and even ventured into a warzone in pursuit of scientific enquiry. I think a lot of people picture him perhaps getting off the ship from time to time and strolling around with his magnifying glass but he was a real man of action. He was also a genuinely decent human being with little time for the superiority or snobbishness that characterized Victorian men of his class and would happily break bread with anyone he encountered on his travels no matter how humble their station. He abhorred the slavery which he witnessed in South America and vowed never to return to any slave state.

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MF: Darwin was truly one of history’s great figures. Few are familiar with, much less appreciate all he did or the man he was. And speaking of familiarity, most people are acquainted with the adage, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Which lesson do you think today’s leaders are failing to learn?

SJ: I think that the Middle East is the prime example of failure to learn from history. Time and again western governments have imposed clumsy solutions on the region which fail to take account of centuries of conflict and complex divisions understood by only a handful of experts. The poor handling of the Arab Spring and the rise of Isis are just the latest examples. Events of a thousand years ago or more still resonate in the region alongside more recent tensions and no doubt once the latest Iraqi crisis and Syrian civil war are finally brought to a close, another imperfect solution will be imposed by the west and Russia, adding another layer of complexity and more seething discontent.

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MF: The Middle East has definitely been a problem area for millennia. It seems to me that much of the problem is that they are still stuck in the 7th Century culturally whereas the rest of the world has progressed. It’s impossible for us to understand what most modern westerners consider a barbaric mindset.

I find it interesting that you have a degree in Genetics and worked for the Forensic Science Service. Have you ever had your DNA traced to see if you’re genetically connected with any of the areas that draw your interest?

SJ: I have not. To my knowledge my family has been traced back to Elizabethan times living as farm labourers and domestic servants in the south of England but that’s only one branch. It would be an interesting thing to do one day. I’d like to find out if I have a bit of Viking in me!

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MF: I’ve done some genealogy in the past and it’s definitely an advantage to be familiar with history when you’re trying to figure out where a family lived before they popped up somewhere, usually due to some migration due to events at the time, whether political or weather related.

While our cultural and genetic roots define our foundation, some historical figures such as General George S. Patton believed that he had been a warrior in a previous life. Have you ever had any experiences (e.g. deja-vu) that gave you the impression that you had actually lived during another specific time?

SJ: No. I don’t believe in previous lives but when I visit ancient places, where so much has gone before, I do get a sense of feeling the history of the place. Places like the Roman Forum, the Valley of the Kings, the Terracotta Army. There is something special in the air or in the stone that makes the hairs on your arms stand on end. That’s the closest I’ve got to something like that. I had a similar experience at Dachau too, for obviously different reasons.

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MF: Those who have never visited a place that had a significant role in history can’t understand that. It’s definitely almost tangible, the echoes of past events that cling to an area.

Have you started work on your next book? Tell us about it and what inspired you to write it.

SJ: I am not writing a present as I decided to give up my job and become a teacher and sadly no longer have time for writing. That same love of telling stories and passing on knowledge is what made me want to go into teaching however and so I get the same satisfaction from planning and delivering lessons. I’m teaching science but I try to get a bit of history into my lessons wherever I can.

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MF: That’s awesome! I’m sure you’ll make a fabulous teacher. So many students need some background to put what they’re learning into context, i.e., some additional information that has meaning and makes it relevant. When I was a child in school, the emphasis in history class comprised memorizing dates and places, which was mighty boring. I didn’t care about it at all until I got into genealogy.

Balancing a career of any sort with writing is always a challenge. Which part of the writing process is your favorite?

SJ: The research. The writing really is an outlet for the learning in my case. Whilst most probably see research as a means to end, for me the writing is the justification for the research. It gives it a purpose beyond learning for its own sake and a vehicle to share that learning. Whilst that vehicle was previously writing, now it is teaching.

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MF: I’m sure your passion for history and sharing it will make you a great and memorable teacher. No matter what subject you’re teaching, it has a history, especially science, which ultimately impacts society in important ways.

Do you have any future book ideas outside the historical fiction realm? In other words, do you have any real-life experiences in forensics that would lend ideas to mysteries or thrillers?

SJ: I think that market is well and truly saturated, so no, it doesn’t interest me. The biggest crime in my forensic experience was the closing down of the British Forensic Science Service and the biggest mystery is how it was allowed to be so badly run for so long. Someone should write a book about that, but it won’t be me.

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MF: Sounds like a wise decision. Do you have a favorite author or favorite book of all time, perhaps one that inspired you to become an author?

SJ: There are few books I have read more than once and I can only think of one I’ve read more than twice and that’s The Power of One by Bryce Courtney. It is truly uplifting and got me through some very lonely times in my life. The film didn’t do it justice.

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MF: Thanks for the interview, Simon! I’m sure your work will benefit many as will your foray into teaching and sharing your vast knowledge and love for this very important subject.

Simon’s book is available at the following places:

Publishers Book Link

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Create Space

More about Simon Jones

Biography

Goodreads

Blog

Greek Fire: Interview with Konstantinos Karatolios

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One of my favorite sayings is “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Unfortunately, we see such consequences all around us. And it’s no wonder, considering the way they taught history when I was growing up, which was primarily to memorize dates and events without context. Bor-ing!

Quite frankly, I didn’t have much interest in the subject until I started researching my family’s genealogy several years ago. At that point it had meaning, as events at the various time periods affected my progenitors, specifically by precipitating migrations to say nothing of wars. Now that I’ve lived long enough to see a significant number of historical events transpire before my eyes, it’s even more interesting. At this point, I love it, but it’s taken me a lifetime to get there.

Thus, I find it tremendously encouraging to see a young man such as Konstantinos Karatolios embracing history. As you can tell from his name, he’s Greek, and thus hails from a culture with a long and rich history. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, “Troy”, about the Trojan War and I can easily imagine Konstantinos in the role of Achilles, formerly portrayed by none other than Brad Pitt. If Konstantinos goes into teaching after completing his PhD, I’ll bet dollars to donuts he’s going to have a powerful affect on increasing interest in the subject, kind of like Indiana Jones did on archaeology. 😉

So without further ado, let’s learn some more about this good-looking guy who’s intelligent enough to realize what a treasure trove history is , long before he’s as old as dirt like myself, and discover his motivation to write “Greek Fire,” from which you can find an excerpt below the interview.

You can learn more about Konstantinos here as well as his website and connect via his Facebook page.


MF: Few civilizations have a history as rich as Greece. Which time period do you find most interesting?

KK: There is no doubt that there is a focus on the Classical Period and I truly understand the popularity of this era. However I think that if you scratch the surface you will find that other periods are very interesting as well. One of these is definitely the Mycenaean era. Despite all that I chose to write about the most ambiguous period of all. The medieval period, i.e. the Byzantine when we are talking about the East. It is definitely the least appreciated of all but it promises some of the biggest thrills to those who  bother study it.

MF: Who do you think is the most fascinating person in Greek history?

KK: That’s a really tough question. However it is my opinion that it’s not the charismatic leaders that make the important era but it is a significant era that calls for a charismatic leader. The same applies for artists and scientists too. What would Mozart have been if it wasn’t the historical period he was born at?

MF: How much truth to you think exists in Greek myths? Do you think they’re true stories embellished with time or purely symbolic?

KK: I think that myths are myths and we shouldn’t take them as facts. However no story is made without having a historical core. Difficult as it is our job is to find that core and see how it correlates with history.

MF: Was there something specific that drew your interest to Greek Fire?

KK: Greek Fire is covered in vagueness. It’s not only the fact that the way it was made was a state secret. Byzantines knew how important it was to possess a weapon that the opponents didn’t knew what it was and indeed we know that there were cases when armies surrendered just hearing that the Byzantines had it. So we have a weapon mentioned in a lot of sources but with a way that it doesn’t help us historians to draw definite conclusions. On the other hand the modern opinion of Greek Fire is oversimplified and totally unacceptable. The combination of these too made me interested in Greek Fire.

MF: Did you have any interesting experiences while researching your book?

KK: Researching is always an interesting experience by itself. All these little disappointments when you find out that things were not as you expected them to be on the one hand but also the huge satisfaction you get when you discover something new, is something difficult to describe.

MF: What’s the biggest challenge you found researching historical events?

KK: The biggest problem for a Byzantinologist is definitely the lack of sources. In many cases we must make the most with almost nothing.

MF: If you had access to a time machine, when and where would you want to go?

KK: It goes without saying that I would travel to the Byzantine Empire. I truly hope that they wouldn’t burn my time machine down using Greek Fire! It would be highly ironic!

MF: What is your favorite place to go when you’re seeking some inspiration?

KK: The ideal place for a writer is somewhere where he or she can be totally isolated from other people and not distracted at all. I have to admit that this is too good to be true. Usually I just lock myself up in my office but that’s never as isolated as it sounds!

MF: What are you currently working on?

KK: I’m working on my PhD. I try to find out everything there is for the education of the princes of the Macedonian Dynasty, at the Middle Byzantine Era. I am looking to return to Greek Fire as soon as I get the chance to do it.

EX 26/6 YGRON PYRR

Excerpt:

“The wonder of the thousand-year Byzantine Empire could not have been achieved without an army that allowed it to maintain its existence for so many centuries. This was despite facing constant challenges from external enemies that differed significantly in their nature. In this context, what had been inherited from the Romans and the adoption of new weapons and tactics in battle were of equal importance. “Greek fire”, if not the most important of these weapons, was surely that which achieved the greatest fame of all. It was used throughout the course of the Byzantine Empire and granted resounding victories to its navy. Its use verges on legend, and yet almost all we know about it and its use is clouded by the vagueness of the primary sources.”

You can learn more about “Greek Fire” at the publisher’s site and pick up your copy from Amazon here.

Phone Etiquette for the 21st Century

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Those like myself, who grew up when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, remember an entirely different phone system than we have now. Most had a phone in those days (talking about the 50s and onward) but they were all landlines run in from unsightly poles. Furthermore, in many cases, we had to share this line with one or more other people. Now this is not like having multiple phones on the same plan sharing minutes. This is a matter of essentially sharing the phone line itself. In other words, only one person could use it at a time.

Back then, phone manners comprised not only the usual salutation and farewell, but dealing with other people outside your family, usually, but not always, your neighbors. Some were on the phone all the time, others might listen in to your conversations, and other annoyances like that, which are incomprehensible to those who are used to having their own cell phone, possibly from adolescence onward.

Protocol back then dictated if someone on your party line picked up their phone twice, the polite thing to do was hang-up and give the other person a chance to use it. Of course, some people would do this within a minute, which put the rudeness on them. If there was a family on your party line who had one or more teenagers, you can imagine how this worked, though admittedly there are plenty of adults out there who talk as much or more.

There was also the matter of long-distance calls. They were expensive. If you had out of state friends or relatives, or even out of your local area, it could cost you an arm and a leg to conduct long-winded conversations. Writing letters was the norm, since there was no email, either. Special calls for birthdays, holidays and family emergencies were often the only long-distance calls made. That was the Golden Age of Hallmark, when you’d send a card in the mail.

Now we have entirely different issues. Not only are party lines long gone (thank heavens), but now your phone goes with you everywhere. And this creates a whole new set of issues, especially for those of us who aren’t addicted to them.

If everyone in the room has their nose in their phone, then that’s one thing. In fact, texting someone in the same house or even room is not unheard of. This, needless to say, is rather crazy to those of us who are as old as dirt. I suppose it can be related to passing secret notes in class or under the table. But how much of real life do you miss?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against texting. It comes in tremendously handy to exchange brief information in an unobtrusive manner. However, like email, it often replaces true communication, either by talking to someone face-to-face or via a voice call. Emoticons notwithstanding, it’s difficult to tell a person’s tone in a text. It is often easier to say something that way than you would ever say in person. This, of course, can lead to ugly confrontations as all restraint and manners depart. Many years ago, back in the 90s, when I worked at NASA, one of our bosses had an informal rule that after three emails on a subject were exchanged it was time to pick up the phone and talk it out. Or, if numerous people were involved, get together and have a meeting. Not a bad bit of advice today.

I guess what irritates me most and what motivated me to rant are the people who can’t live without their phone. They are constantly either talking, texting, or looking something up. Their attention is on their phone, not you or anyone else who’s there. This is bad enough in a group, but one on one it’s incredibly rude. If you met someone for lunch you haven’t seen in years, why would you spend that precious time checking your phone for text messages? If you’re waiting for life or death information, that’s one thing, but you know what I’m saying. Or someone comes over to visit and then spends the time paying more attention to their phone. How does that make you feel? Clearly that the phone is far more important.

Am I entirely insane and old-fashioned thinking this is the epitome of rudeness?

4574511_sModern communications devices have changed our lives, in many instances in a very positive way. But phone addiction has caused problems as well. It took a ridiculous amount of time before it became apparent to insurance companies and law enforcement agencies that those who talked or texted while driving were as dangerous or perhaps even more so than drunk drivers. I suppose a Blue Tooth and voice commands make it no worse than having a passenger or kids in the car, but it’s still a distraction. Whenever I see someone driving erratically they are usually yakking away to someone who’s either invisible or on their headset.

Doesn’t anyone ever concentrate on driving safely anymore? I suppose with self-driving cars coming soon, that won’t matter anymore, but for now it does. Especially in metropolitan areas, most of which have a severe traffic problem.

This rant has gone on far longer than intended when I could have said it in one sentence: When you’re driving or visiting with someone, put away your damn phone. It’s annoying, offensive, rude and sometimes dangerous. And I don’t mean only in traffic. One of these days, the person you’re ignoring might finally get fed up and hit you upside the head.

‘Nuff said.

Ho’oponopono Could Change the World

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I first heard of ho’oponopono from motivational speaker, Joe Vitale, and found it fascinating. This little book by Paul Jackson takes it to the next level with the specific background needed to substantiate the method and use it more effectively than possible with Vitale’s testimonial alone.

I find it fascinating that ho’oponopono is not entirely unique. There are numerous methods of deleting old baggage and hangups, but they have interesting similarities. What each technique seems to consistently emphasize is love, being sorry for past mistakes, asking forgiveness, and giving thanks. These emotions represent positive vibes that energize your soul and allow you to get rid of the negativity that can hold you back from joy, success and living your life to the fullest.

I find that a combination of the various methods is especially effective. While they all suggest that this attitude change is permanent, I have found this not to be true. It’s too easy to slip back into negative programming and thus a refresher now and then is necessary, at least for me. Using the same one over and over can get boring and thus ineffective, so it’s always interesting to find a new one that supports previous methods. Other books I’ve read that are similar include Karol Kuhn Truman’s “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die”; “The Emotion Code” by Dr. Bradley Nelson; and “Frequency” by Penney Peirce. I highly recommend them all if you’re looking for a self-help attitude adjustment in a positive direction.

One thing this book points out with more emphasis than the others is the principle that we’re all connected at the spiritual level, i.e. the collective consciousness. When we change ourselves, it ripples out to others. It reminds you that when you point the finger at someone, that there are four fingers pointing back at yourself. It’s about taking responsibility for the effect you may have had on others, even those you do not know personally, and rectifying it. It’s beautiful in that respect. Love is the one thing that can change the world and you can make a bigger difference than you realize.

This little book was an excellent refresher, but could also serve as a great introduction to a simple yet effective method of shifting your personal vibration to a more positive level. We attract what we project, so if your life isn’t going in the direction you’d prefer, then it’s likely you could benefit from some cleanup. It does have a variety of typos and a few word usage issues (i.e. commiserate instead of commensurate) but over all, the book is highly recommended. In these times when it seems our home planet has gone crazy with us surrounded by hate, dishonesty, corruption, violence and general negativity, this could be the boost you need to maintain a positive outlook and feel as if you can make a difference. This book will convince you that indeed you can.

Pick up your copy of “Ho’oponopono Secrets” by Paul Jackson on Amazon.

US Presidential Candidates and Congress: Can You Sing?

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Today’s guest post is from Cherie LeBrun, a classically trained musician with an international reputation and political activist who’s greatly concerned for the condition of our country. It has been the lament for centuries that fine artists are under-appreciated by the masses while only the wealthy have the education and means to appreciate and avail themselves to such luxuries.

But there’s more to art than sheer entertainment. It’s what feeds our soul. Cherie’s passion for music has prompted her to speak out, noting ways it could help heal much of what afflicts the world today. Her credentials for presenting such an admonition and appeal are duly impressive and included at the end. I know Cherie as a dear friend who is intelligent, compassionate, insightful, and a devoted animal lover. Her thoughts are somewhat long, but worth listening to.

* * *

US Presidential Candidates and Congress: Can You Sing?

Our American Leaders ignore essential facts about the importance of Fine Music and Fine Arts in our educational system. Let’s get this on our Platforms. It is as important as any goals you have for America.

Why can’t our leaders integrate more funding for fine arts, musical instruments, lessons? Private non-profits can’t handle all of it. What’s wrong with putting Fine Arts as a requirement in our public educational system?

Are American leaders on both sides so blind, including EVERY ONE of the candidates, they have not read all the research in regard to the importance of Music and the Arts? Don’t they know that Music prevents Violence? Won’t Bernie, Donald, Hillary, Jill, Gary, even POTUS & VPOTUS, take a look at the importance of MUSIC & ARTS in our world? These folks have money. Are they too lacking in cultural education? Sometimes I wonder. Who brings it up? Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. El Sistema. It works! Look it up! Contact Gustavo! Contact Lang Lang!

As a classically-trained musician, I’m particularly concerned about the LACK of EDUCATION in Fine Arts and Fine Music, the base and heritage of our Western music, especially since programs like El Sistema WORK! We are talking the HIGHEST Olympic-like technique, the understanding of tone and musicality and various methods to extract that tone to a musicality that is far beyond merely counting with a marching band’s metronome.

As an older musician/teacher I can say our nation no longer has enough FINE MUSIC & FINE ARTS. It has been and still is reserved for the highly educated and wealthy. American kids today don’t understand it, why so many of our Classical Artists representing the highest technique reachable are coming from Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia, etc. Even our wealthy youth don’t pursue it. I know older doctors and lawyers who are also highly trained, but that tradition of deep knowledge for music is waning.

An example of how times have changed for the worse for fine music is exemplified by the lack of State and National Music competitions, AND, the lack of Class A students, vs Class B and Class C. In Ohio, I had a student participate in the District Competition. Even if he received a Superior Rating, that was it, he could not go on. In the 60’s, when I received Superior, Class A, I went on to State.

Even our high schools are focused more on Marching Bands than Symphonic Orchestra. I don’t even think we have many or any young high school orchestras in rural Appalachia where I live. Sports takes a priority.

But music educates the right and left brain, and discipline is necessary, including manners.

Over the last few decades, music exists OUTSIDE the family structure, with earphones glued to the ears of our children.

Families don’t sing enough together — or at all.
We need music at home, singing together at home.
We need to FUND lessons with great teachers at schools, which will also teach kids discipline, manners, kindness.
We need to teach our children to bring music home and share it!

Meanwhile, Republicans hate Democrats, visa versa.
So many of us feel that our leaders are not inspirational. They’re not. Monotone. I don’t think they can sing! Where is the inflection? The sincerity of the voice that comes with singing?

How many show us the way to the Fine Arts? We talk about SCIENCE constantly– POTUS especially. Musicians are tired of hearing it. WHY? Because MUSIC IS A SCIENCE!

Students come to private teachers saying, Oh, there’s no money in music, I want to study science or medicine!

Folks, I’m blasting this to the world. MUSIC IS A SCIENCE! And it is the ONLY Science that involves both sides of the brain, left and right, feeling and thinking!

Einstein was a fabulous violinist!

We need an education with REQUIREMENTS to study fine arts! I’m not talking about Marching Band, pounding on an instrument without learning the subtle technique for bringing out melodies and different feelings, dynamics, tone. I’m referring to public education with top teachers, musicians, artists, singers performing for our youth and teaching them as well! Just contact Gustavo Dudamel and ask him.

Soon, teaching private piano or other instruments will fade in many parts of America. The free lessons at schools are not worth much, believe me. And yet, there is SO much TALENT! But Fine Arts need to be REQUIREMENTS. Why? Because the kids today lack discipline! Once they figure out that Discipline and Manners will bring joy of hard work, they will be happy the discipline was there in the end. AND, they need to be inspired by superb teachers who are paid well!

Our young Americans have no idea what listening to fine music means, the architecture of the music. They don’t even realize their pop music is just a simple ABA structure, most of the time.

Think about it. Why do parents often say, mine included, Oh, you can’t make a living at music? For sure, without a Masters or PhD, you may not, unless you are such a top performer or POP artist, you survive in a capitalistic society of arts.

Why? Because our American culture does not give Fine Arts and Fine Music any relevance in our culture! I’m talking about the highest form of art, technique, tone, interpretation.

When was the last time the White House exemplified the fine arts? Maybe Kennedy’s?

Our kids don’t even know some basic HISTORY of ART & HISTORY of MUSIC! Everyone, even their parents, are glued to computer keyboards, earphones… we don’t even HEAR the MUSIC in Nature! The beauty of the Mourning Dove, the rhythm of the Woodpeckers.

Our city and inner-city kids are far removed from the beauty of nature. Our rural kids are far away from attending a major symphony. They can’t even hear the beauty. they hear pop, pop, pop…. helicopters overhead in North Long Beach in the 2000’s, “Stay in your House!” Sirens, more sirens.

Besides music, some of the so-called LEADERS need to talk about integrating, not only music, but more NATURE into the cities as well, with important programs for our youth. El Dorado Park in Long Beach is a good example.

That includes more music in the parks, not just bands, but FINE MUSIC. not just the loud music with pounding high vibrations, harming ear drums, like the hustle bustle, cries of ‘give me, give me’ attitudes, greed and idol worship and loud sirens. But with all the gangs in the parks with their guns (I was once in a middle of a gang shoot having lunch in a small park in Culver City), how can we even bring music to our parks?

Will it ever change and has it ever changed?

Instead, we live in a society that has no respect for the fine arts. Only the rich can afford to become educated to understand it, attend the concerts. Inner City, grade schools, high schools in cities may attend once per year, a token field trip. As a result, serious Musicians with the Highest Technique and Musicality and Tone, are not respected by American youth, not like youth in Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, represented by Lang Lang, who has done so much to bring this appreciation to China.

Our heroes and heroines often become those who are mere sex symbols or people we can’t even trust. But our Music and Poetry & Literature and Arts are honest representations of our souls, our times….even the people we have lost confidence in.

We need to free the lower 50% more than a mere FEW days per year, for trips to Arboretums, grand beauty parks of nature, and to philharmonic orchestras with famous soloists…. including an education about what they are actually hearing! Instead, in big cities, walking down the street with an ‘attack dogs’ can be more popular. I saw it often in North Long Beach,CA.

Violence, violence, violence everywhere, in our music, violence in our movies, automatic weapons, boom, boom, boom, violence in our voices, and violence of guns permeate our culture, instead of MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, more Paint Brushes & Colored Pencils.

And the Media often encourages it, hour by hour, day by day, owned by Wall Street and lobbyists who know that SENSATIONALISM brings more profit! Listen to the political statements after every disaster or mass murder. POTUS did not even mention the names of the officers!

Has anything changed on Planet Earth? Can’t we keep the simple 10 commandments of the Native Americans if we deny Christianity? Are people packed together only to exist in economic despair, impacted by poor Trade Deals and many times, no place to play!

Yes, we have lost touch with our SOULS. We fail to dream. We have lost touch with honesty and trust for our leaders and government. We fail to see the inspiration in simple pleasures. Electronic gadgets and video games rip us apart but ironically bring us together in our war-zone cultures.

But, can we SING? We don’t sing with our family members. We expect our children to be just like us, often forgetting their own individuality and needs. We put the kids by the TV sets instead of taking nature walks, dancing with them on the kitchen floor, singing a song, holding their hands with fun and love like my Baltic mother often did.

But, can we begin our route to music as a way of life, because we can begin to SING! Our voice is the very first musical instrument! Kids don’t even know that in today’s world!

Yes, every single day, we can sing a song, learn to carry a tune again! So many of our children can NOT carry a tune! Folks, it’s not INNATE! You have to practice HOW to CARRY a TUNE if you want to sing! We ALL can sing, unless we have had some surgery preventing our vocal chords from functioning. We can sing sad songs, holy songs, spiritual songs, poetic songs, rap with depth,soul, & love.

We can, like my Godchild in Texas, start groups or participate in groups @Crescendohtown, bring families together with music. We can sing to our children, sing to our teenagers and sing together. We can even learn Solfeggio like Europeans.

So, let’s take our earphones OFF! … as we mourn the violent diurnal murders of today, yesterday, tomorrow, in a world unawakened, blind with fear of telling the truth, blaming everyone else instead of facing one’s own reflection in the mirror, fearing our own transparency, fearing we may lose control…

We can return to songs we knew when we were younger, we can learn songs of different cultures, folk songs, country music songs…so many songs we can sing, why the birds are always singing.

Most importantly, every side of the spectrum can sing together. The Republicans can sing with the Democrats who can sing with the Green Party who can sing with the Independents who can sing with the Libertarians, on and on….

Then, maybe we can all sing together to bring Fine Arts BACK into this country, our culture, our educational system.

As an addendum, below are some superb interviews and facts about El Sistema. This could work in the USA if our Congress had more wisdom and insight!

(Brigitte Engerer) https://youtu.be/liTSRH4fix4

Singing takes them away from their daily lives…Music changes their souls, their minds
For children, gangs, youth in jail and in trouble with the law –saved by El SISTEMA:

El Sistema – JUVENILE DETENTION/JAIL https://youtu.be/c28oypf3ZPc via @YouTube

Gustavo Dudamel interview: https://youtu.be/UWQtwBB76c4

How Music Saved Venezuela’s Children: https://youtu.be/43tqQhOTCgQ

Imagine 4graders excited to stay after school to study classical music:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/dudamel-conducting-a-life/updated-el-sistema-from-venezuela-to-the-united-states/

For anyone opposed to El Sistema, just listen to Gustavo Dudamel.

Chopin – Complete Nocturnes (Brigitte Engerer)

Serenity and dream… 1. 0:06 Op. 9, No. 1 in B flat minor. Larghetto 2. 5:53 Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major. Andante 3. 10:29 Op. 9, No. 3 in B major. Allegre…

 This post originally appeared on Cherie’s Facebook page.

BIOGRAPHY

Cherie Lebrun graduated from University of Notre Dame/St. Mary’s and the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Upon audition, she was accepted into the Innsbruck Conservatory of Music to study with F.Pinter. Cherie won several scholarships to summer music school at Capital University, received Superior ratings at Ohio State Music competitions, Class A, and also entered State Competition. She was one of three students accepted by Jakob Gimpel at California State University. Gimpel, a concert pianist and personal friend of Arthur Rubinstein, performed annually at the Ambassador Auditorium, as well as Hollywood Bowl with Zubin Mehta.

Cherie studied composition with composer Dr. Beverly Grigsby and Thomas Hulbert, as well as some jazz with Mark Massey.  She was coached by Bruce Sutherland, well-known class-A instructor & composer, who studied with Amparo Iturbi.  Cherie performed for the City of Santa Monica where she created their first fine music/piano course with recitals for youth who could not afford music lessons or instruments.

After a bout with death in her late 30’s, without healthcare insurance, Cherie left her full-time music teaching & performances. She became a Marketing and PR professional for a variety of multi-national and national companies, including non-profits and progressive political campaigns & organizations. She was an advocate for homeless people, a grass roots lobbyist and youngest President of Gray Panthers Network (seven chapters) in So.California in the early 90’s.

Cherie also assisted Carol Shaw in writing her book, Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are, a premier guide for beautiful fashions for the larger-sized woman. She served as a ghost writer and published several articles on various subjects, including commercial real estate. Her article, LA Needs a Wake-Up Call on Homelessness, was featured in the front of the LA Business Journal.

Presently retired, Cherie is an auditioned member of a music performance group in Ohio Appalachia — and working on a few books, various subjects.

CONNECT WITH CHERIE VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherie.lebrun.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cherielebrun

5 Parenting Tricks to Raise a Smarter Child

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Children are born curious. That is why they drive their parents nuts. Even before they can talk, they’re into everything, whether it’s the kitchen cupboards or the catbox. Hopefully, the no-no’s are replaced by toys that are equally stimulating, though most parents have found that nothing can replace something as simple as a big, fort-sized box. When they learn to talk, then the questions begin. And for busy parents, these are often seen as a nuisance and distraction versus the opportunity they are to enhance your child’s intelligence and creativity. Instead, it’s usually squelched by sitting them in front of Netflix or a video game. I won’t even talk about the concept of going outside to play, since nowadays that seems as old-fashioned as rotary phones.

Most parents want their children to grow up to be successful, self-sufficient adults. With luck, maybe they’ll even take care of you someday. The question is whether your current parenting tactics will bring that result? What does your child’s diet comprise? Not just physical, either, though that’s the first place to start. Proper nutrition is important in too many ways to address in this blog, but if nothing else, it teaches healthy eating habits, even if you don’t explain why vegetables and fruit are healthier than cupcakes and soda. Proper nutrition contributes not only to a healthier body, but mind as well.

A healthy emotional diet is important, too. Lots of hugs, positive reinforcement and appropriate discipline are essential. If a child feels loved, overcoming other parenting mistakes is much easier.

learntothinkBut what about his or her intellectual diet? What’s feeding their little minds? Are you putting some thought behind it when they’re bored or just reaching for the easiest distraction? Here are a few tips for encouraging your child to love learning.

1. Answer their questions! In the past, unless you were a physicist, it was more difficult when a child asked “Why is the sky blue” or “What causes a rainbow” or “Why can airplanes fly?” In the past it required a huge dictionary and a bookcase of heavy and expensive encyclopedias. Now all it takes is a quick query on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Don’t dismiss any question as stupid! Face it, you probably think it’s stupid because you can’t answer it. That attitude will rub off, too! If your child sees you looking up answers, it won’t be long before they do, too.

2. Make learning fun! There are just as many educational games out there as mindless ones, most of which teach battle strategies and violence. Shop carefully, paying attention to what the story line comprises. If your child gets addicted to video games, wouldn’t you rather they be learning something?

3. Failure is not an option! Part of making learning fun is creating a love for challenges, which is what games do. Make learning something new exciting, not something to be feared. Encourage your child to confront challenges, head-on, by setting goals, then celebrate even small successes. Teach the concept that failure isn’t permanent, but only a learning experience that serves as a stepping stone along the road of life.

4. Identify his or her learning style! It’s great that there’s so much visual learning these days, which I wish had been the case when I was a youngster. There are numerous learning styles with the most basic audio, visual and kinesthetic (hands-on). Do you know which one your child favors? It’s best to introduce all three and see which one your child’s naturally drawn to.

As a visual and kinesthetic learner, I did poorly with teachers who did nothing but talk, which went in one ear and out the other. Visuals helped, but hands-on resonated. While it’s a good idea to introduce the other styles to build skills in those areas, be sure to use your child’s favored media for the most important areas. Once you know what it is, find out which method(s) your child encounters in school. If it’s not the favored style, then you’ll want to supplement learning at home in the style s/he’ll not only absorb but enjoy.

5. Music appreciation! Learning a musical instrument not only teaches discipline, it actually improves a child’s brain and concentration. If this isn’t possible, you can still control what they’re exposed to. What becomes familiar is what they’ll prefer. If a child never hears classical music, it’s unlikely to be embraced later.

If music programs the brain in some way, then what do you want your child to listen to? Pay attention to lyrics, too, which are absorbed at the subconscious level. Music is a powerful tool. Make sure it’s having the desired effect. Going on vacation? While you have a captive audience in the car is a great time to introduce classical music. Turn off the DVD player occasionally and have them watch the countryside, which can be used as an impromptu geography lesson. Visiting a National Park? What an excellent time to introduce the compositions of Bach, Beethoven or Brahms.

None of these take a lot of time, certainly a lot less than most sports programs, which have their place in a child’s upbringing. But if most of your child’s leisure time is occupied with sports, what priorities are you teaching? Think about it.

Once you make up your mind to focus on these simple tricks, they’ll become second nature, not only for you but your child as well. Children truly do learn what they live. The intellectual quality depends on you.