On the


ENCHANTÉ – The US 99 cents craze

many books of all literary genres for sale in a bookshop
Many books of all literary genres for sale for 99 cents.

Who ever came up with the 99 cents idea? The psycho crisis in the USA! Which dummy believes that 99 cents are not a 100 cents dollar? I still have pots full with dollar cents sitting in my basement. Even the mice don’t care for them. In Holland, I remember we discarded the penny a long time ago. The Euro still has one and two Eurocents coins but people rarely use them in shops. Amounts ending below 3 are rounded down, above 4 are rounded up to 5, and below 7 are rounded down to 5 and amounts ending at 8 or 9 are rounded up. But not in the great USA: the whole sales psychology is built around 99.

Price tag label with string isolated over white, 0.99 dollar cent

This craze goes into the thousands! Items are $299.99 or 1299.99, or for cars from 29499 to 45699 and so on. Buyers think they get a “deal” when it is priced at 99. Houses are being offered at 549599. Just price it at a whole dollar and the sale goes awry! Merchandisers and Buyers are all in the same fix. Even the National Debt ends up with 99. Rounding up or down is a non-starter. We all want to be deceived, thinking we are paying one dollar or Euro less or 100 dollars or a thousand less, while in fact, we are paying the full amount.  Sales people know it, buyers know it and everybody likes to deceive or perceive that things offered are cheaper when in fact they are not.

Ninety-nine percent off. Discount 99%. 3D illustration.
Ninety-nine percent off. Discount 99%.

99 cents 2-a

I am sure the July 4th Independence sales in the USA will be full of it. From grocery sales to car sales to home sales.  Your barbecue sausage will be $2.99 a pack. Your ham slices 4.99 a pack. Your new car 23,999. I don’t know how the summer sales in the Euro countries will be priced. Maybe they have different ways how to deceive the consumer. But we WANT to be deceived. My wife always buys because “it’s on sale” at 99 cents or percent less. That’s why the basement is full of unused bottles of cleaners and other chemicals, and the freezer full of great deals from the butcher that we can never ever eat in our lifetime.


You get the idea: the ninety-nine cents is a craze and leads to clogging and clutter. And then to think that Amazon.com started this for the poor writers. Selling your “e-book” for 99 cents? A book you have worked on for at least a year, spent hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on for research, editing, and promotion? Is that fair? I hear that daily 5,000 new books appear on the market now that everyone can self-publish a book. A lot of that must be crap. Nonetheless, they are all floating in the clouds of Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, and other “on-line” book retailers at 99 cents or some other low amount ending with 99.  Thousands of “book promoters” offer their services “full price” at “a discount” to get you “known” for thousands of dollars. And the writer gets 99 cents for his e-book minus “administrative costs!”  How’s that?

I feel like starting a war to abolish the penny. If I go to my bank with all those pots full of pennies, they will faint or send me to the madhouse. I want at least one wholesome dollar for my e-book, and fifteen or nineteen whole dollars for my paperback, free of the penny craze.

Of course, my books are infested with the ninety cents craze, too: E-book “Some Women I have Known” is priced at $1.99 http://amzn.to/1QIL94B; and “Enchanting The Swan” at $2.99. http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o . That’s how the publishers want it because the wisdom is that readers buy between .99 and 3.99.

If you can’t beat them, join them! Becoming a penny-crazed idiot is contagious in this world.

Happy July Fourth!





ENCHANTÉ: BREXIT – Continental Breakfast vs Breakfast UK

John at 18 -2a

When I grew up in Holland, England was across the sea horizon.  So close that when my 6 foot 2 father walked into the sea at the beach with my younger sister on his shoulder, she screamed full of anxiety, “not to England father, not to England father!”  That happened just after we were liberated from Germany and we could go to the beach again. In Holland, we loved England despite what we were taught in class about our 100-year bloody sea-wars with each other in the 17th and 18th centuries. These wars were mostly “commercial wars” about sea trade to the Far East for “spices,” and hegemony in the Americas and West-Indies. We lost New Amsterdam to the Brits who renamed it New York. That was bad, and I am still mad about that. But in 1945, England helped liberate us from the Germans. ” The Tommies,” as their soldiers were called, conquered many blonde Dutchies.

Bevrijding 1

Everyone wanted to build a new Europe free from division and wars. The US helped rebuild Europe with the Marshall Plan. Regional collaboration started between Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, “The Benelux”, launched by representatives of the three countries exiled in London in 1944, with a Secretariat in Brussels.  At the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague, I participated in those activities. It was mostly built on commercial interests. I adored Brussels for many reasons, foremost good French fries, mussels, delightful steak salade, white Mosel wine from Luxemburg. And the beautiful Grand Place with its many sidestreets where you can dine and wine was always like heaven.

Brussels Gr-Place-1

My greatest fun was that we received a tax-free compensation for those Brussels meetings that I used to buy my liquor with back home in The Hague. That compensation always increased if the meetings lasted beyond 4.30 PM.  So, even if there was nothing to discuss anything more, somebody always came up at the last moment with some urgent issue to resolve. And we went happily home with the extra bonus. Later, when I had a girlfriend living with me, it saved me from ruin because I had to pay for her telephone calls.


“The Coal and Steel Community” came to life in 1951, covering the Benelux, France, Italy, and Germany, which was the precursor of the European Economic Union (EEC), established in 1958. The UK wanted to be a member of the six-country union, but former President de Gaulle blocked its membership because he said it would be the Trojan Horse bringing in the USA to meddle in “Europe’s affairs.” The UK then joined with other European countries bordering the EEC to establish the competing EFTA (Economic Free Trade Association), among others with Ireland, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. So from the outset, the EEC was a continental European affair.  The UK became only a member in 1973 after La Douce France lifted her veto skirt. But it has always been a lukewarm relationship. And now it is out again. The good idea of unification after WW II became entangled in overly centralized governing by Brussels and uncontrollable borders with undesirable immigrants.

stamp printed in Netherlands shows Sir Winston Churchill

Churchill, by the way, wanted a federal Europe like the US, but it excluded the UK because that was a self-standing entity. The Brits wanted “self.” It took only 43 years, a blip in history.

It was basically a matter of English breakfast versus Continental breakfast. I love English breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, sliced baked potatoes, smoked mackerel, English tea, so good that we could not stop eating at the Heathrow airport Hilton and missed our flight. Also, because access to Heathrow airport is like a real bottleneck and continuously jammed.   Conversely, a continental breakfast consists of espresso, a croissant with some jelly, and perhaps a little cookie. That’s all.

Full English breakfast with bacon, sausage, fried egg and baked beans.

Full English breakfast with bacon, sausage, fried egg, baked beans, toast
Full English breakfast with bacon, sausage, fried egg, baked beans, toast
Creamy coffee with croissant
Creamy coffee with croissant

The French continental breakfast


Although I prefer my Douce France for dinner, I prefer my Perfide Albion for breakfast. With the British pound down for a while, I may just go and get it. I remember the dollar was high in 1984, and we stocked up on good English shoes, coats, and curios, and had a ball at Selfridges and Harrods. And we gauged on a succulent English lamb that had become ridiculously expensive because of the EEC.

A feast that warrants repetition thanks to Brexit.  God Save The Queen.




ENCHANTÉ : The Champion Slugger

PJ at sports-4-2015


8 years old? And a champion slugger?

His (Dutch) Great-Great Grand Father, Hector W.M. van Coehoorn van Sminia, was a speed skater, finished 9 in a field of 33 skaters in the first Dutch 11-city ice skating tour in 1909, and became a well-known speed skating coach, trainer and ice hockey player (his team won an international championship in Davos, Switzerland). He was a well-known horseback rider and horse breeder/trainer in Holland (the famous Dutch warmbloods and thoroughbreds!). His wife, my grandmother, was champion of the first Dutch lady field hockey teams (playing in long skirts!), a good tennis player, and an excellent horseback rider, too.

Grandfather Hector and son Arent with prize-winning cup Hector v C v Sminia, Buitenhof ca.1943

Their grandson, me? Not much of a sportsman. I played tennis and the piano, but wasn’t great at soccer, hockey or skating. I loved to ride horses and go skiing, until a back problem arose and I had to abandon all that.  Major disappointment. Our son, David? He mostly grew up overseas during his first 8 1/2 years while we were on a four-year World Bank assignment in Bangladesh and missed out on all the early little league stuff in the US. But when he landed in Los Angeles  on the way back and saw the 49ers for the first time on TV, somehow the latent family sports-spirit hit him front and center: from then on, it was football (Redskins!), baseball and basket (Magic!). Me trucking him to all the little league schools in the neighborhood for practice and battle. At high-school, he excelled in football and basketball and scored 22 baskets on a regular basis. I tried to teach him tennis – my favorite – but while he was good at it he always turned to team sports.

David basket

No wonder the family genes fulminated in his son Preston John, alias PJ. Last weekend two championships, one of which a baseball game in which he scored with his WhiteCaps team the one and only home run! And how: see it below (courtesy PJ’s mother, April, who, like her mother Doris, is an eager and competent photographer).

PJ s home run

Below are the other sluggers and their coaches! PJ in blue far left, coach and Dad David far right. What an enthusiastic bunch!

PJ Baseball Team

PJ baseball championship-1


PJ Baseball happy with Dad

PJ smiling with his trophy and proud Dad texting it around.

Go WHITECAPS! Happy Fathers’ Day!

PJ football champion-1

And this one day later: champion “Flag” football!  Thanks to PJ’s fabulous pass – as the quarterback – to a teammate who went straight for the goal line! PJ can surely throw balls!

What does his sister, Sadie Rose do? Playing soccer!

Sadie at sports 4-2015 Dutch soccer girl

Well, the old family genes have been passed on! Finally!


Lives Lost Lives Gained

John 2

You see the war movies this Memorial Day weekend. Youngsters probably don’t even realize it’s a weekend to remember the fallen. For them it’s barbecue day and heading for the first beach festivity. They should know they can because the fallen saved their lives.

WWII German Soldier ready for shooting rifle and mortar

For someone like me who has lived through war and escaped – miraculously – being hit by bombs or gunfire, or being taken away by cruel thugs who “followed orders” to put you away, it is difficult to understand that generations who have not experienced war do not understand what it means. Movies show explosions and people flying through the air in pieces, and we sit in front of the screen, either at home or in a theater, and just continue eating our steak or popcorn, not feeling the excruciating pain that goes with it and that those victims must suffer.

Tank fire in a burning building
Tank fire in a burning building

The US was hit badly at Pearl Harbor, and lost many thousands of brave men and women liberating Europe from Nazi Germany and Asia from Samurai Japan. Some seventy years later, the Twin Towers got hit by Osama bin Laden. On both occasions, thousands of dead. In between and thereafter, there were Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, and the Middle-East where many young soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice, defending freedom and civilization.

Marine Corps War Memorial (also called the Iwo Jima Memorial) Proud saluting male army soldier on grungy american flag background

Honoring Heros

Older man in a wheelchair and his grand daughter looking at the stars of the fallen at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.

People grow quickly complacent. Bursting bombs and flames on TV and in the movies numb your senses of what it really means: horrible pain, extreme suffering, helpless maimed bodies, deep loss for fellow humans who met this fate in defense of our freedom and ability to continue living the easy life.  Did you ever as much burn your finger, to imagine what dying in a ball of flames does to your senses?

I don’t like those thugs in the streets protesting, for what? If they ask them, they don’t even know!

Riots - Cars Burning angry baltimore youth 2

If I had the power, I would round them all up  and make them work hard in an army camp for a while, drill them, make them climb obstacles, discipline them and give them a taste of what freedom really means and what we have to do to keep it. And, of course, some people will scream at me, “You are a bigot, racist!” or whatever. Really? So what then is so good about wild and uncontrolled protestors? Do they need extra protection and baby care under the First Amendment of “free speech?” Don’t they realize they can protest only because they live in Freedom and that violence at it is NOT a right?

I remember that -when I studied in Belgium – police rounded up protesting students, hoisted them into trucks, and let them lose one by one far in the country side to walk back home. Good riddance. But the networks love to show the wild ones throwing stones or even Molotov cocktails at the police – who are protecting them normally from thugs like themselves – because those images are “sensational” – attract viewers – and are good for the ratings and advertising fees. It’s all very topsy-turvy.

rush hour

Complacent USA

On Memorial Day Weekend, as on other memorable days, I hang out the flags, of the US and Holland.

Flags on House-a

In memory of the fallen who made it possible for me to live a good life. I think of the many with maimed bodies, still finding the willpower and strength to get by with what they have, and even do Olympics. Those are the people I respect. Those are the people those street thugs should take as an example. True, anarchist people have always existed and always will, from the old classic days of Romans and Greeks to the French Revolution and the Nazi Brownshirts. The only difference between then and now is, that they can be shown on TV and that the Networks love to show them. They give these thugs the notoriety that they do not deserve at all, in particular when they put a certain political party in a bad light. How convenient for the “objective reporting” media.

What a difference our Freedom Fighters make! In the Army, on the sea and in the air!

United States paratroopers airborne infantrymen in action in the desert

US Navy DDG 51 AEGIS class Destroyer at sea

Acrobatic Air Show on a sunny day.





John 2

I have attended many writers conferences and each one has its own atmosphere and character. What strikes me most of the annual BOOKSALIVE venue, organized by the WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF BOOKS (WIRB), is its special spirit inspired by the venerable DAVID STEWARD, its President and founder. In four years, the WIRB has grown into a fully attended writers event with engaging speakers on salient author subjects and a tightly run but effective pitch program on the side.

And who would not be thrilled to sit at the same lunch-table with Bob Woodward, the key note speaker, and Kitty Kelley, that charming and cute lady-author who wrote many best-selling biographies of brand name celebrities of our time, and received a life-time award for her work at the conference, handed to her by David Steward? That was my honor!

WIRB 2016-a Kitty Kelley at WIRB 2016-1

Bob Woodward with Gene Meyer  and Kitty Kelley (in blue) with David Steward

The Conference started off on Friday evening with a launching party and a packed workshop on how to pitch and write a query, and especially what not to do. Every writer knows that it takes a world to acquire an agent. If you want to get published, writing is not just writing, it is a business to get representation, because agents must make a living from your royalty when they sell your product to a publisher, who in turn must spend his money on printing and sending your book to bookstores. That’s for many writers the frustrating thing:  so many want to write (like so many want to sing at American Idol) and so few make it through the grind. You must prove you have an outstanding “voice” and a book that “rings.” A writer becomes an author when he/she gets published, that’s the traditional deal. But agents are people too and know how hard it is. They won’t bite you when you pitch, but they do tell you when your book would be a tough sell (they know this from experience as they have to pitch your book to the publishers) and, if it is not marketable, you had better improve or drop it and start with something new .

Stressed Woman Wearing Glasses Holding PC Tablet

Of course, traditional publishing versus self-publishing was again the talk of the day. Frustrated writers can now publish their books via Amazon-Create Space or small presses, but everyone, including traditionally published writers, still faces the uphill battle to market and sell their books. And agents won’t be interested in your self-published book unless you have sold thousands of them. In other words, publishing and getting known remains a vicious circle for many. There are millions of books in the clouds! What the BOOKSALIVE conference does is reinvigorate your spirit to keep trying, no matter what your “age.”

old man typing on a typewriter  Female journalist thinking of new ideas for her article

or in whatever psychological state you are:

Writer's block   Young funny man in glasses with big head among pile of old books Beautiful woman in the office, which is happy

Bob Woodward’s Key Note Speech was funny and deep on the political scene, his insightful interviews having thought him that whatever historical judgment will be felled on presidents and their administrations of our lifetime will occur only when we are all dead.  Thanks for that. As a foreign writer from Holland I expressed my perplexity with the American voter for being so fixated on the personality and personal features of presidential candidates rather than choosing the political party that best represents your interests, as we do in a parliamentary system, regardless of the leaders. Bob Woodward then asked the audience if they were as perplexed as I, and to my surprise everybody raised their hands! Now what! Change the Constitution?

Two wisdoms of the conference stood out for me: If you do self-publish your work, do it as close to what is needed for traditional publishing (Larry De Maria: use a good editor, scrupulously research for  your best interior and cover design, and do your marketing as best you can), and join and build your writers community (Jen Michalski) to talk about writing and escape your writer’s insularity. Why not start with the Washington Independent Review of Books at http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com. You will not be disappointed and find a wealth of good material and people to talk to.










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