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Kathryn Agrell |

Monster Houses and Eating Crow

One of the really great things about being on a spiritual path is that you get to eat crow really often. A few days ago, I wrote and published a scathing article talking about monster houses and other things, my dad, Andy Oddstad among them. (My dad built houses, but not monster houses.)

How scathing? I spoke of the “McMansions littering our hillsides” and hoped that the home in which I grew up “doesn’t get transformed into an ostentatious edifice fit for pseudo-royalty.” I closed with an indictment of modern capitalism: “Today, companies are about marketing position and branding, about the “USPs”–unique selling propositions––magic words to charm the consumer into buying an illusion that she can’t afford and doesn’t need.”

Those words scathe effectively.

The Palace at Versailles: A true monster house

A TRUE MONSTER HOUSE: The Palace of Versailles was home to Actual Royalty. I’m illustrating this post with photos the prototypical Monster House, elegant in every way, full of pretension––I mean, if you think you’re God, you could live in this house with a straight face––and the best of everything. It differs from modern monster houses in that its real, way upscale, and conforms to the principles of design, listed down below.

Only a few hours after posting my position statement on large houses and the contemporary practice of flashing every dime you’ve got, I went to a social function at a home that can be described as plu-perfect, and huge. A monster house, by size, anyways. Oops.

I wandered around the edifice, marveling at the workmanship, the 3 ” thick marble counters, wood floors, plaster finishes, gorgeous fenestration (windows), views of the Pacific Ocean from every window. Sweeping panoramas of the City of Santa Barbara, offshore islands, gardens. Everything.

This was the most beautiful home I’d ever seen, and a monster house. I’d never want to own it: I couldn’t afford the gardener, much less the utility bills. But, wow. And what a spiritual feeling about the place.

Plus the owners were really nice, humble, kind people.

0versaille

Never underestimate the value of nice landscaping in increasing property values. Look what it did for Versailles!

My cheeks burned and I felt that inevitable, “I blew it,” walking around that beautiful place. So what’s wrong with this picture? First off, my original mind set was that big equals evil. Big is just big. And wealth is OK. Better than OK. Where’s the wisdom in this experience?

I immediately thought of the four goals of life. You know them:

  • Dharma: righteousness
  • Artha: wealth
  • Kama: pleasure
  • Moksha: liberation

These are straight from the Guru Gita, an ancient Vedic text. Other philosophic systems will have different goals, but I like the simplicity of the four above.

Dharma refers to living a spotless life by whatever moral system you espouse.

Artha––well, we all know what wealth means. Pile it on. My mom had a great poster in her house: A southern mansion with the line, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” That’s easy.

Kama––kama as in kama sutra. Pleasure. Better far better life goal than pain. Pain comes on its own.

And Moksha––liberation. Means liberation from the wheel of life, attainable by union with God.

3versailleskingsbedroom

The King’s Bedroom at Versailles: With the right karma, you could sleep here. Of course, it didn’t do much for Louis XVI.

The magnificent edifice I wandered into after my rant about monster houses was the fruit of a life well lived. The individuals owning the house had all four goals, in spades. The wealth one, artha, very obviously. And humility.

3versailleinterior

Versailles, Beautiful, Ornate, Over the Top. Sparked a revolution.

The difference between a monster house and a very large and beautiful house rests in the five principles of design:

  • Balance
  • Proportion
  • Scale
  • Harmony
  • And one other, which I forget. Let’s call it taste, or beauty.
  • Oh––rhythm. Remembered it.

I’ll discuss those principles in a later post. Here’s a link to an article about the importance of beauty in book cover design. Says it very well: Lewis Agrell’s Article About Book Covers.

Here I am, ready for Versailles.
Here I am, ready for Versailles.

Sandy Nathan is the winner of seventeen national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Her books are: (Click link for more information)
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

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a late (very late) 2011 publication date, or early 2012. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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NUMENON WINS THE 2009 IPPY SILVER MEDAL IN VISIONARY FICTION!

Independent Publisher Book Awards

Independent Publisher Book Awards

JUST ANNOUNCED: NUMENON by Sandy Nathan won the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal in Visionary Fiction. The “IPPY” Award is one of the oldest and largest book contests for independent presses, with more than 4,000 books competing this year.

A press release from Independent Publishers provides more information about the contest in their news release:

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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May 21, 2009 — New York, NY — Organizers of the 13th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards, conducted to honor the year’s best independently published books, have announced the results for the 2009 competition.

This year’s awards attracted 4,090 entries from throughout the U.S. and Canada, plus most English-speaking countries worldwide. Medal-winning books came from 44 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, eight Canadian provinces, and six countries overseas. Launched in 1996 as the first unaffiliated awards program open exclusively to independent, university, and self-published titles, the 2009 IPPY Awards will be presented to winners at a gala celebration during BookExpo America in New York on Friday, May 29th. Winners receive gold, silver and bronze medals and can place foil seals of the medal image on their book covers.

“Today’s readers are seeking diverse perspectives on hot-button issues,” said awards director Jim Barnes. “This year’s list represents a mix of established independents and bold new voices, and their messages echo the call for change and a straightforward approach to dealing with the world’s social, political and economic problems.”

The IPPY Awards are presented by IndependentPublisher.com, the online “voice of independent publishing” operated by publishing services firm Jenkins Group of Traverse City, Michigan. The annual IPPY Awards celebration on Friday night during BookExpo America is a highlight of the weekend and publishing media are welcome to attend.

For more details about the Awards, to attend the event, or to interview recipients, please contact:

Jim Barnes, Managing Editor & Awards Director
Independent Publisher Online/Jenkins Group
www.IndependentPublisher.com
Ph: 1.231.933.4954 x1011
jimb@bookpublishing.com

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Award Winning Book Covers: Make Your Book’s Cover Sing!

"It May Be Forever" A beautiful cover by Lewis Agrell of The Agrell Group

"It May Be Forever" A beautiful cover by Lewis Agrell of The Agrell Group

I just posted an article about what makes book covers successful––i.e., so irresistible that the books inside them sell like crazy––on my blog for writers, YOUR SHELF LIFE. Lewis Agrell of The Agrell Group wrote the article and let me use his incredible cover designs to illustrate his points. Lewis designs custom book covers, interiors, and other materials (brochures, etc.) for publishers and self publishers.

The cover to the left is just one of the covers illustrating the article. Lewis writes about what makes a successful book cover offering concepts from psychology and human development. What makes a cover work––like sell the book it’s on? Beauty. Click the link and hop  over  to my other blog. Your Shelf Life: How Long Will You Last? Success & Sanity for Writers.

Just a head’s up for any of you looking for a book designer.

Sandy Nathan
Award winning author of Numenon and Stepping off the Edge.

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