Category: independent press

Judgment Day: Reviews Reviewers Critics Criticism Rankings and Rants with a History of Modern Culture Since 1950


Yes, in the modern age, every day is judgment day. We are surrounded by reviews, ratings, rankings, and evaluations––most of which were created anonymous people judging their fellow human beings.  We’re asked to review everything imaginable. We have Amazon reviews, Goodreads reviews, reviews on blogs and everywhere else. We’re asked to “Friend” me, “Like me.” Give a thumbs up or thumbs down to everything.

This trend is accelerating. Social media multiply faster than the ground squirrels in my pasture. Numbers are everything. We brag on-line: “I have 59,000,000 friends.” “People downloaded 100,000 copies of my book last week.” Who has the power? Who has the status? The one with the biggest numbers. Quality is secondary, if considered at all.

In the old days, only God got to judge.

We swim in a sea of judgment, much of it performed by people with no qualifications and suspect motives.

The new world is characterized by anonymity and false identity. When I was getting my MA in counseling, we strove for transparency––not hiding behind roles. We strove for real personal connection, knowing what our feelings and motivations were and stating them honestly.

Now, we’ve got anonymity. The person we’ve just given the lousy rating doesn’t know us, never will, and can’t do anything about what we said anyway. This allows nastiness that no one would perpetrate on someone face to face. Screen names insure the impossibility of finding out who we are.

Want to know about the psychology of our age? Check out Dr. Kimberley S. Young’s work.  Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction–and a Winning Strategy for Recovery is a great book to start with. She talks about “flaming”–on-line flareups of rage–and the vicious pack behavior you see in some blogs.   Here’s Dr. Young’s test to determine if you have an on-line addiction.


The only legitimate reviewer is a producing artist whose work is better than the work being critiqued. The critique should be communicated to the artist who produced the work––only.
Philip B. Welch, AIA

The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy

This post was motivated by a couple of reviews. I levitated with joy over a terrific review  Glenda A. Bixler of Book Reader’s Heaven gave my book The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy. Life was wonderful. Writing was a great profession.

Two days later, I was checking a fact about one of my other books on Amazon, I discovered that it had a new review, too. Except that this one was an extremely negative review written in a particularly nasty way.

Whoa. Those words smarted. Worse than that, they’re posted in public where there they will continue to influence others forever. My mood shifted: Writing became the worst profession in the world, offering no rewards, but endless opportunities for pain.

Dante's Inferno. I wonder why Dante didn't think of an endless stream of bad reviews as a punishment appropriate to the lowest levels of hell?

Everything I have read about dealing with bad reviews says: Don’t respond. If you blow up on line, what you say can go viral and destroy your career. Suck it up. Shut up.  Take it. That’s similar to: relax and enjoy being raped.

That approach doesn’t sit well with me. Taking my professional future in my hands, I’m going to respond, but not to the bad review or the reviewer who bestowed it. I’m going to talk about our society and its current mania for evaluation. I’m going to start out with a survey of changes in our culture that I’ve observed during my lifetime.

This post is so long that even I was embarrassed by its length. I’ve cut it into sections and will present them a few days apart. Keep reading. It’s entertaining, and you might find it funny. And valuable.

1. Changes in Our Culture and Social Values During my Lifetime: Or How Our Collective Psyche Lurched Forward––and Backward.

I’m old. One of the nice things about being old is that I’ve lived a long time. I was alive during the 1950s and 60s and remember them clearly. In my world, until the Beatles erupted in 1964, life was exactly as portrayed in MadMen, except way more uptight and without all the sex.

I’m amazed at how much society has changed. Take the quote about reviews and reviewers above. Who’s this Welch dude? Philip B. Welch was the chair of the Department of Creative Arts at Santa Clara University during the mid-1960s. He was an architect of consummate taste and aesthetic development who had studied at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. I was his student. Mr. Welch had a huge impact on my life. He said the words above in class.

I interpret his words as, “If you can’t do a better piece of art than the one you’re reviewing, shut the **** up. If you can do better and have some feedback about the piece that would be useful, have a personal conversation with the artist involved aimed at helping him or her make better art.”

What is unusual about this point of view?

You’d never hear it after 1979.

In 1964, The Beatles blasted us out of the booze-soaked, up-tight fifties, setting off an explosion of consciousness with a simple song called “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” That revolution was probably fueled with liberal doses of LSD and marijuana, but people changed. They wanted to create a society in which personal worth, kindness, altruistic feelings, and love ruled.

The 60s were an amazing, exciting time that I will never forget. We really believed we could change the world. Life had a freshness and palpable expectation that good would triumph that are gone now.

Typical 1960s Transportation in San Francisco. I can't even describe what the Haight was like. (SF is my home town.)

The revolution of consciousness kept on rolling during the 1970s, when the big personal growth/human potential movement/train-yourself-into-enlightenment wave hit. We had (and did) est, Rebirthing, Lifespring and many other seminars and trainings aimed at cleaning up the nasty bits in our souls and letting the true Self shine through. The big meditation programs arrived from India in the 70s: TM, Siddha Yoga, and others. They really stressed love and lack of judgment. [Post a comment below if you participated in any of these. I did est and Rebirthing in the 1970s. Found both very valuable. I was involved with Siddha Yoga for almost thirty years.]

You have to have lived through those times to realize how different the world is today. You have to have walked down those streets and listened to what people talked about and cared about and did. Folks flocked into the Peace Corps, heading into the developing world in an attempt to make things better. We had the Model Cities Program, Head Start, and the myriad social programs that––guess what, critics––were shown to have measurably improved the lives of participants. And many of us protested the war in Vietnam, putting our lives on the line to create the world we wanted. Conversely, many of us served in the armed forces in Vietnam, putting our lives on the line to create a world we believed in.


Communion. What we still crave, even though the 60s are long gone. (Artist: Lily Nathan)

All that went south in the 1980s.

The 80s ushered in the era of greed, me, gimme, and gimme more. When I think of the 80s, I think of massive shoulder pads, dresses with glitter all over them, granite kitchen counter tops, miles of crown molding, and monster houses with absolutely NO architectural merit. We tricked ourselves out with no guilt. At all. None.

It’s kept on going, right through the Enron collapse in 2001 and the financial meltdown of 2008 and surrounding years. Untrammeled greed piled on more greed.  I lived in one of the exclusive towns in Silicon Valley. I didn’t have to watch Inside Job, the Academy Award winning documentary about what happened to our financial institutions in 2008, to know about this. I could go to breakfast at the local cafe, a hangout for the high tech elite. The conversations I overheard  substantiated everything I’m talking about.

People who did not live through contemporary society’s evolution from the 1960s until now DO NOT KNOW how much the collective psyche has changed. Large hunks of the population seem to have lost any sense of fellowship, righteousness, and fair play. Kindness. The desire to help others. Love of humanity.

“He who dies with the most toys, wins.” A bumper sticker defining the modern age. I Googled that phrase and learned a lot. The slogan hails from the 1980s, of course. My search showed that I am not the only person to have a negative reaction to it. I also discovered that there’s a web site advising people about dangerous-to-display bumper stickers.  It was created in recent years, the Great Recession years, when everyone was losing jobs and was financially stressed. If you make a conspicuous display of materialism on the freeway such as the stickers on that site, someone might take a shot at you. “Most toys” is on the most dangerous list. Here’s a counter opinion:

There’s a dose of reality. Here’s more: Not everyone is a greedy, judgmental SOB today.  Some people want to live in a peaceful world where people are kind. Members of clergy, psychotherapists, mystics, and those on a spiritual path all try to live without judging their fellow human beings. They try to see the other person’s point of view and temper their words so they can be heard without causing pain.  Lots of just regular folks are like that, too. My friends and family and lots of others are good people.

I try to live without harming others. I’ve worked hard to create a me that I can live with. For instance, aside from doing the 70s as hard as I could, I have an MA in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, also from Santa Clara University. I went into that program because of the values the program it embodied. My soul drew me there. I wanted to imbibe the attitudes and skills of the people in that program. And I did.

But for  mass society, the days when all that stuff mattered are gone.

The clearest demonstration I see of the Real New Age shows up in contemporary politics. People in Congress can’t agree about anything. And that applies to people in the same party.  If those on the same side can’t say nice things about each other or get along, how will they run the country? Do you ever watch the news and see the nasty, judgmental faces on our leaders?

Shiva Nataraj

Where is The Great Soul? Was it squashed with the tragedy of 9/11/2001? No. People pulled together then. Did it die in the financial crash of 2000 through 2008 and beyond? Maybe. Was it the technological revolution of the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and iEverything else that did it in?  Or is the social climate the result of the recreational drug of choice changing from marijuana to meth and coke?

2.  What Does This Have to Do with Book Reviews and Reviewing?

Reviews and reviewing are symptoms of the ills of our society. Everything I say above applies to book reviews. As a matter of fact, I wrote all this because of a book review.

3. What to do? Well, you could hope for the 60s to come back or join an order of monks, but those are pretty extreme.

Knowledge is power. In the next article of this series, I’m going to talk about the psychological transactions and states involved in judgment. And I’m going to talk about skilled communication. About being skilled people.

Until then,

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan and Tecolote

Sandy’s Amazon Author Page.

They range from wild sci-fi to adorable children’s nonfiction. You’ll find something you’ll like in the list below:

  • NUMENON,  a novel about the richest man in the world meeting a great Native American shaman
  • STEPPING OFF THE EDGE, a modern day spiritual companion
  • TECOLOTE, the adorable kids’ book about a baby horse.
  • EARTH’S END TRILOGY––the new, three book sci-fi/fantasy/visionary series that takes you to the end of the earth, and beyond.
    The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy––An angelic girl shows up on the sidewalks of New York City in 2197. Or is she a girl? Jeremy Edgarton, teenage genius and revolutionary decodes the transmissions. They say the world will blow up tomorrow morning.
    Lady Grace––The radiation has cleared. A few survivors make it back to Piermont Manor to start a new life. What they face is a battle more deadly than any they’ve fought. Evolution can work for evil as well as good.
    Sam & Emily––Can love live in an echoing cement bomb shelter three hundred feet below the earth’s surface? Find out in Sam and Emily as headman Sam Baahuhd falls in love with a beautiful assassin.


Plucky Grandmother Fights Amazon and Loses. And then Wins, Maybe

Those of you who’ve following my Plucky Grandmother series, here and here, will know that I’d scheduled promotional days where two of my Kindle eBooks will be offered free. The promotion is this weekend, October 12, 13, & 14th.

Except that one of my books which is supposed to be in the event, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, was/is listed on Apple’s iBookstore. I didn’t know it until Amazon told me about it. If you’re in Amazon’s KDP program, which allows you to give away your Kindle eBooks, you’re not allowed distribute anywhere else.

During a series of supremely unhelpful emails between Amazon and me, I attempted to explain that I wasn’t flaunting their rules, but trying to fix a mistake. Apple was having trouble getting my book off the iBookstore. When I got no answer, I assumed I lost the argument. Then I received the following email from Amazon.

The Angel Is Accepted in KDP!

The email congratulates me on getting my eBook into the KDP Select program. But it’s been in the program since May. It’s already had one KDP Free Promotion. Was that email Amazon’s way of saying, “We hear you, Sandy, here’s a few more days to get The Angel exclusive to Amazon?” I have no idea. Bizarre.

The only way I’ll know is to wait and see if The Angel is free tomorrow. Oh, the surprises of the morn!

Just in case  The Angel is not free,  I lowered the price to 99 cents. I’ve contacted about a million sites  on the Net telling people the book was going to be free. I didn’t want people to be disappointed when they click the page and it’s not free. Ninety-nine cents is as low as Amazon allows a price to be set. I did my best.

Here’s some info about the books in the promotion. I’d give the Tales from Earth’s End Saga, of which The Angel is the first book, an R rating if it was a movie. It contains violence, strong language, and sexuality. I don’t write like a grandmother, but I don’t go over the top, either. The books are about the end of the world, a police state and fight for survival. A long way from Oz.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy  The first book in the Tales from Earth’s End Saga gets the ball rolling. What’s the ball? The planet Earth. Tomorrow morning, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: A teenage boy and an intergalactic traveler. And a bunch more fascinating characters, too. The book is an ensemble piece where the prize is survival.

Winner of 4 national awards, including the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the IPPY Awards.

This book will be free, maybe, October 12, 13, & 14. If it’s not free, it will be 99 cents. That is still a deal!


Lady Grace

Lady Grace

Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love Tales from Earth’s End Saga, Book 2. Here’s a review that says it all:
FIVE STARS! A MODERN SCI-FI MASTERPIECE Lady Grace was first-rate science fiction and one of the most absorbing page-turners of that genre that I’ve read in years. Author Sandy Nathan exhibits the imagination of Ray Bradbury combined with the whimsicalness of Douglas Adams. That’s high praise, but it’s warranted. The story includes so much action; tense, suspenseful drama; and two charming love stories that it’s irresistible.” J. Chambers, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer (#29 at this writing)

This book will be free October 12, 13, & 14.


Sam & Emily: A Lovestory from the Underground

Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground

Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground Tales from Earth’s End Saga, Book 3.The book is a love story; it focuses on a relationship and has a different feeling than the other two books. This is my favorite book. Here’s a review:

5 stars out of 5! A gripping story of life after the world ends . . . fascinating and reminiscent of Stephen King’s epic masterpiece – The Stand.  Sam & Emily is by far my favorite . . . in the series.  It will leave you thinking well after turning the last page.
Todd A. Fonseca, bestselling author of The Time Cavern

This book is not included in the promotion, but will be in future promotions.



Tales from Earth's End


Tales from Earth’s End: The Boxed Set  A giant eBook containing all three books is in production!

This set is not included in the promotion, but will be in future promotions.








That’s it! Until the Plucky Grandmother speaks again–– don’t let ‘em push you around!

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan’s writing has won twenty-two national awards. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback. Kindle coming)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback. Kindle coming)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice




Plucky Grandmother Loses Battle with Amazon, Wins with BookBaby. Apple’s Trying Hard to Be Helpful

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy - The subject of controversy. You wouldn't think an angel could cause this much fuss. The Angel occurs the night before a nuclear holocaust wipes out our world. It features an extraterrestrial visitor who comes to Earth on a mission to save her planet and a sixteen-year-old tech genius who has the skills to save our world. It's won four national awards, including the Gold Medal in the IPPYs and the Visionary Fiction category in the Indie Excellence Awards. It is available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats, though not in the KDP program any more.

If you wonder what I’m talking about in the title, check out yesterday’s post.  My eBooks are on Amazon’s KDP program, which means you have to distribute your eBooks exclusively through Amazon. This gives you the right to give away your books as a promotion for 5 days out of the 90 day enrollment period.

One of my books inadvertently was left on Apple’s iBookstore when I signed up for KDP. I didn’t know about it. Amazon found the book for sale on line and told me I had 10 days to get if off the iBookstore or get kicked out of the KDP program. (This was about ten days ago.) I found out that, my secondary distributor, had pulled it off the iBookstore site six months ago.

For some reason, my book, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, stayed for sale on the iBookstore.

Why? I don’t know. Apple doesn’t know. They’re working on it. But! I have a KDP promotion scheduled THIS WEEKEND, October 12, 13, and 14. I’ve advertised it. I’ve promoted it. I want to go through with it.

I wrote Amazon and explained all this, asking for a few days for Apple to figure out the problem and let me do this weekend’s KDP program with one less worry. I sent Amazon records from BookBaby indicating they had pulled the title from the iBookstore. I sent copies of my emails to Apple & their response. I got down on my hands and knees and begged. This is Amazon’s response, taken from their email earlier today:

Hello Sandy,

When you choose KDP Select for a book, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP.

Publishing your content in multiple parts or a varied format on another site is not acceptable. All content made exclusive to Amazon in KDP Select must remain for sale on our site only. However, you may choose to make up to 10% of your book available on other sites as a sample.

During the period of your book’s enrollment in KDP Select, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.

Be sure to look at the KDP Select Terms & Conditions here:

If you have additional questions about KDP Select, check out our Help pages:

I hope this helps. Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.


Michael G.
Kindle Direct Publishing

It doesn’t matter to Amazon that you’ve done your best to comply with their rules and thought you had. You can be petitioning God for help for all they care. It doesn’t matter if you need a few more days, or if your mom died. It doesn’t matter that you’ve been a loyal Amazon customer since the company was founded. Amazon says they’re committed to providing the best customer service ever. Not for suppliers. Read the letter again.

In contrast, look at Apple’s response to my pleas:

Dear Sandy,

Laura here from the iTunes Store. Your request was escalated to me for further assistance.

I have escalated the issue to our engineers with a thorough description and included the image of removal. I hope to hear from them in 2 to 3 days. As soon as I hear from them I will contact you with an update.

Thank you for your patience in this matter.


iTunes Store/Mac App Store Senior Advisor

Their estimated date of being able to fix the problem is too late for my promotion this weekend. But isn’t that cool? Which company is truly committed to customer service? Really makes me want to buy an Apple iPad or one of the new, small tablets they’re putting out.

Dump the jungle, go with the sweet fruit.

Sandy Nathan, the Plucky Grandmother

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-two national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback. Kindle coming)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback. Kindle coming)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice


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