The Last Watcher Series

By D. B. Clinton           

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis           

Ever since J. K. Rowling decided to put the Harry Potter series of books to rest, the publishing world has been seeking for a successor.  Mind Wings Audio may have stumbled across Rowling’s descendant.  The author’s name is D. B. Clinton, and Clinton has written an exciting new series of books called The Last Watcher.

The series is composed of The Last Watcher, The Night of the Shield, The Lady and the Shield, and The Shield and the Shadow.  They’re a cross between Harry Potter and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Which is to say they’re well-structured and cerebral, yet at the same time they’re spellbindingly visceral.  In other words, they punch the reader right in the stomach.

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Book Review: The Fund

By H.T. Narea

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Narea stumbles a bit with his first international thriller.     

Kate Molares is a financial sleuth with the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Her job is to follow the money back to the bad guys.   When a terrorist bombing occurs in Madrid, Spain, Molares intuitively begins connecting the dots between Al-Qaeda, Basque insurrectionists, and Venezuela.  The connection is handsome Middle Eastern hedge fund manager, Nebibi Hasehm, whose nickname is the Jackal.  As Molares attempts to figure out what’s going on, she renews her former too-coincidental relationship with Nebibi, whom she suspects is more than he appears.  The various threads of the plot unravel when the author inserts a subplot about an experimental serum that causes cats to chase dogs.  This subplot is too farfetched and refuses to meld into the rest of the story. 

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Stolen World

By Jennie Erin Smith

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis                                

Status, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, is important in life.   Status is an unspoken, yet universally recognized, form of competition.  Status may be derived from any number of things, including how much money one has, what kind of car one drives, and what brand of clothing one wears. And each and every subculture within a culture has its own particular system of status. 

For example, a few years ago, status among Roman Catholic priests was determined by cuff links.  The fancier the cuff links, the higher the status.  Right now, among fourteen-year-males in California, status may be gained or lost based on the brand of shoes worn.  Vans convey status, as do DC shoes and the Etnies brand.  Nike athletic shoes are totally cool, whereas Reeboks are not. 

This state of affairs is omnipresent, touching every facet of life, even, as strange as it may seem the bizarre world of smuggling.  And not just any old smuggling, either.  To be precise, the secretive subculture known as illegal reptile smuggling.  Which, by the way, is extremely lucrative for those participants who are successful.

Two of the most successful reptile smugglers were Hank Molt and Tommy

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Book Proposal: Bad Company

By Christopher Zoukis

There’s a small town in Ohio.  The town’s name is Dublin, after the famous city in Ireland.  Commonly described as ‘rustic,’ which is a quaint way of saying ‘countrified’ and ‘unsophisticated,’ Dublin – the one in Ohio, not the other one – is headquarters for Wendy’s International.  Most people have heard of the hamburger chain.  What they haven’t heard of is another big firm in the same city.

National Century Financial Services.  Started in 1991, this outfit soon became the nation’s largest purchaser of hospital, physician and other health care receivables.  It works like this.  NCFE buys the accounts receivable of small hospitals, medical clinics and nursing homes.  Because of their small sizes, all of these health-care providers are having money problems.  They are desperate.

National Century steps in, giving them cash to cover their expenses so they can stay in business.  The health-care providers win because they don’t have to wait for insurance companies to pay them.  They get most of their money now, and don’t have to mess with the frustrating job of dealing with stingy insurance companies.

National Century wins because they keep a fee or percentage of any money they collect from the insurance companies.  Then NCFE puts all the accounts they bought into a kitty and sells them in the form of asset-backed securities to huge institutional investors like money market funds, or retirement funds. 

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Fads Come and Go

By Christopher Zoukis

I don’t know if you know it or not, but way back when, before they even had home brewing kits or modern beer brewing supplies – as far back as 3400 B.C. – people were brewing their own beer.  The world’s oldest known barley beer comes from the Zagros Mountains in Iran, as does the oldest grape wine (5400 B.C.).  But the all-time winner is a Neolithic grog unearthed in China’s Yellow River Valley about 9000 years ago. 

There’s a brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, called Dogfish Head, where they take these old brewing recipes seriously – they try to copy them.  Then they take the results and bottle it, distribute it, and sell it.  And surprisingly, some of the ancient-style beers they produce sell very well.    Dogfish Head’s brewery came up with a beer called Midas Touch, the recipe for which was based on old and decaying libations recovered from King Midas’ tomb (700 B.C.).

At the present juncture, the brewery is experimenting with an Egyptian beer.  The process is being filmed by Discovery Channel’s ‘Brew Master’s’ reality show.  Based on libations discovered by archaeologists in the tomb of Pharaoh Scorpion I, they are trying for a combination of savory, thyme and coriander.  To this medley of spices they added oregano and a number of others, such as doum-palm fruit and chamomile.

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Hot and Cold Golf Balls

By Christopher Zoukis

Most people don’t know it, but the temperature of the golf ball and the ambient temperature affect the performance of the ball.  Air temperature causes changes in the ball’s resiliency and its spin, along with the density of the air it travels through.

Generally speaking, the warmer a golf ball is the farther it travels.  This is because the rubber materials used to construct the balls function more efficiently and provide more resilience at higher temperatures.  A warmer ball leaves the clubface with more velocity and more spin, encouraging loft.  In addition, if the ball is warm when it lands, it carries more bounce, because heat gives the ball more elasticity.  The ball bounces more and travels further.

The cooler the ambient temperature is, the more dense the air.  If the air is dense, the ball needs more velocity to go as far as it would in thinner or warmer air.  So if the ambient temperature is warm, the air is less dense, which means the ball performs better.  It’s not unlike the tires on race cars, where the higher the temperature, the stickier the tire, which means the car can go faster.

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Effective Email Marketing for Authors

By Christopher Zoukis

One of the best ways for authors to alert their readers as to new works is to stay in contact with them from the start.  While it is recommended that authors frequently update their author websites (via articles and/or blogs), it is not reasonable to expect the majority of their readers to continue returning to the site for more information month after month and year after year.  Life simply gets in the way.  While RSS feeds can assist in keeping the author in front of their audience, email marketing really is the best option since it affords more control of the marketing campaign and allows for an increased level of personal involvement.

While there are a number of companies out there which will gladly take an author’s money in lieu of email marketing services, most remove the author from the equation and many are essentially spammers.  The few who put in the required amount of time are very good, but expensive.  As such, the independent author would be advised to take their own email marketing into their own hands.  Without much effort or capital, any author can do just that.

Effective email marketing for authors can be fulfilled through simple tasks such as employing an email address collection mechanism, planning an email marketing campaign, designing and implementing an email marketing campaign, and revising  email marketing campaigns according to the results.  Any author, no matter how technologically astute or not they happen to be, can be an effective email marketer.  They can connect with their readers, provide valuable content to them, and maximize profits by doing so.

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Proposal: Too Good To Be True: The greatest Ponzi schemes in history

By Christopher Zoukis

Chapter One:  a quick overview of what a Ponzi scheme is, along with a hypothetical example. 

Chapter Two:  what is and what is not a Ponzi scheme.  Pyramid schemes are not Ponzi schemes.  A bubble is not a Ponzie scheme.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a Ponzi scheme.

Chapter Three:  520 Percent Miller.  William Miller opened for business in 1899, in the city of New York.  He called his company the Franklin Syndicate.  Miller was called “520 percent Miller” because he promised 10% interest per week on any money invested with his company.  He defrauded investors out of $1 million (in 1899 dollars).  After he was caught, Miller spent ten years in prison.

Chapter Four:  Between 1991 and 1994, a Romanian named Ioan Stoica ran a company called Caritas.  Caritas promised investors 800% interest on their investment.  A fantastic pledge, which was made even more fantastic by the promise that it would happen in six months.  No one thought it was too good to be true.  Over 400,000 people invested a total of $1 billion (US dollars).  When Caritas went under, it owed $450 million.  Stoica was given 7 years in prison for fraud.  But his gall knew no limits.  He appealed and the sentence was reduced to 2 years.  Then he appealed that sentence.  In the end, he received a sentence of 18 months in prison.  He pocketed $550 million.

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Will Science Exterminate Mankind?

By Christopher Zoukis

In the 19th century, Thomas Love Peacock, the author of numerous social satires, made the following observation.  “I almost think it is the ultimate destiny of Science to exterminate the human race.”  Approximately one hundred years later, having just witnessed the power of an atomic explosion, a famous physicist made a similar observation.  The physicist’s name was Robert Oppenheimer.  He said, “I have become death, the destroyer of worlds” (Sherwin 501).

Both men believed that Science, if left to its own devices, would probably annihilate mankind.  Many others agreed, while still others disagreed.  Literature is replete with end-of-the-world scenarios, in which humanity is responsible for its own demise.  And of course, Hollywood picked up on the theme, producing myriad apocalyptic blockbusters.  These books and movies reflect a simple proposition, that of cause and effect.  The effect is the extermination of the human race.  The cause is Science run amok. 

Science is responsible for thermonuclear weapons, bio-chemical weapons, the slow destruction of the ozone layer, and the pollution of the earth.  And even worse horrors are on the horizon.  Science is already engaged in genetic experiments, bio-engineering of foods, time-space travel, and promises that nanotechnology will soon be a reality.

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Marketing Luxury

By Christopher Zoukis

A fascinating example of marketing luxury products targeted at rich, single men is Diageo, which is the world’s leading beverage company.  Diageo has many products that span the price spectrum.  But Diageo concentrates on its luxury brands, treating them like precious loved ones.  Some of Diageo’s luxury offerings include Johnnie Walker Blue, Crown Royal XR, Ciroc Vodka, and Don Julio 1942.

Diageo’s method of marketing bears examination.  The company designed its marketing around its reserve brands, which includes 24 high-end luxury items.  Diageo uses what they call “marketing disciplines” to keep their brands visible to affluent customers, many of who are rich, single men.

For one, they utilize “influencers,” who are high-profile celebrities.  Diageo hooked up with Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, because they felt he could influence a segment of their market in a powerful way.  For two, Diageo has a “Guru Influencer.”  The Guru Influencer is whisky expert Charlie MacLean.  Wealthy customers who are “in the know” trust MacLean’s expertise, and therefore value his recommendations.  For three, Diageo uses “Socialite Influences.”  Socialite influences are high-net-worth individuals who have lots of exclusive parties and know lots of elite people.

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