Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A New Review for Rails to a River

A literary work of fiction with a lot of heart
November 4, 2015
This review is from: Rails to a River: A Long Awakening (Kindle Edition)
There are great storytellers and literary storytellers across this land. Jim Ainsworth is both. In Rails to a River, as in his other novels, Jim is a sculptor who carves the right words from our language and strings them together with the beauty of a poet and the sudden impact of a pistol shot.
Just read a brief passage, and you will understand immediately what I am talking about: “But not even Father Bob can explain why Tee was spared, why it seems as if he has been plucked by some malevolent force from a life he understood and loved and set down into a suit and tie existence in, a world college professors called a corporate culture. The old priest could not explain why two events, sixty-seven days apart, five hundred miles apart, shattered Tee’s hopes, rudely maneuvered his life down a road he did not want to travel toward a place he does not want to be.”

Jim Ainsworth understands the storms that threaten to destroy men like Tee Jessup, that leave Tee adrift in a world that views him as a man who doesn’t belong. A single moment of time has changed his life forever. He probably should not have survived the accident at a remote railroad crossing. He probably should not have awakened from the coma. It might have been better if he hadn’t. All that he loved has been stolen from him
He had always been at home in the wide-open spaces of a West Texas ranch. His home is gone. He drives away from the ranch. He heads to the city. He heads to the great unknown. He is a man most miserable, a stranger in a strange place. He works. He fails. His wife leaves him. She takes his son. He assumes it’s because he has become a failure. Her reasons are far more sinister. But what are they?

Tee faces a journey he does not want to take and searches for those stolen moments of his life that he may never find. It is a journey that the reader takes right along step-by-step with Tee Jessup as he travels a long, winding, and unfamiliar road. When Tee is lost, we are lost. When Tee hurts, we feel his pain. Tee Jessup is no longer a stranger. He’s a friend. He’s family. Jim Ainsworth has the rare ability to make sure of it. Jim writes about the West, but Rails to a River is not a Western. Tee is entangled with the mysteries that surround his life, but Rails to a River is not a mystery. Tee searches for the love he has lost – the love of the woman and his love for the land – but Rails to the River is not a romance. It’s life.

If you want to read a literary work of fiction with a great story that has a lot of heart, read Jim Ainsworth. It’s life as only one man has lived it, life as only Jim Ainsworth can write it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Optimism, Vigilance, and Trump

Please take a look at these short articles by Alexander Green:  

Here is my response:

Dear Alex,
In your recent articles about Donald Trump and the American economy, you seem to indicate that we are on the right path and most things are hunky-dory. Your only qualifier was your dissatisfaction with some of the “shenanigans” going on in DC. Shenanigans seems a pretty weak description.

I have read your books and given them as gifts. But these articles overlook or gloss over some very important facts and present a Utopian view of what’s happening in our country. 
You challenged your readers to refute any of your “facts” and stated we should “put on our dome-shaped hats and go stand in the corner” if we did. You expressed astonishment at how many of us dunces “cannot tell the difference between fact and opinion”. Pretty harsh and, I think, wrong.

I mostly agree with you on the Donald, though I am not sure you understand why he is so popular. I think conservatives are sick of Republicans’ “rollover and play dead” strategy and surrendering without a fight to Obama. And we are sick of political correctness and the whiners who constantly look for some word or phrase to offend them. It’s keeping us from discussing important issues facing this country. 
Let’s take your facts one at a time:

The dollar is the world’s reserve currency.

Correct, but it is under attack from China and there is the possibility, however remote, that situation could change. Some experts believe it is China’s intent to displace the buck.

The US military is the primary defender of the free world.

Correct, but our ability to continue in that role has been severely diminished during the Obama administration. Our military is now at pre-WW II levels, and in some cases, WW I levels. Real warrior leaders have been replaced with politically correct ones who toe the White House line.

We now face the largest mass migration since the days of Hitler and possibly in world history.

We have just negotiated (one can hardly describe what the inept Obama/Kerry and their minions did as negotiation—capitulation is a better description) an egregious, arrogant, and dangerous agreement with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. And we got virtually nothing in return.

China, Russia, and Iran appear to be moving to squeeze us out of Europe and the Middle East and Putin is clearly trying to splinter NATO. Russia has taken over Crimea, is in the process of taking Ukraine, is building military bases in Syria, and sold defensive weapons to Iran to limit our military options.
And then there is China with its cyber attacks, building islands in the South China Sea, buying up our debt.

Our allies no longer trust us and our enemies no longer respect us. And let’s not forget North Korea, with nukes we paid for. And what about our inept attempts to defeat ISIS?

Our banks have never been stronger.

Many pundits said the same thing just before the 2008 crisis. You name only big banks in your analysis, without mentioning the negative impact of Dodd-Frank on community banks. None have been started since 2011. And many big banks took huge chunks of bailout money from taxpayers. 

The U.S. economy grew at 3.7% in the most recent quarter. That’s twice the rate of growth in Europe and four times that of Japan.

Have you noticed that the numbers we are fed on GDP are often revised downward with little mention in the press? And 3.7% is not all that strong after seven years of tepid growth and certainly not strong enough to handle our enormous debt. Comparing it to the dismal numbers of Europe and Japan seems to prove nothing except that those two nations are in deep economic turmoil. And aren’t their weak economies bad news for America, too?

Unemployment is at a seven year low.

The U-3 measure of unemployment is meaningless. The press should be ashamed for ever quoting it. U-3 does not count folks who have quit looking for a job (given up) in the four weeks before the data are compiled. How does one determine if a person has given up? Answer: you can’t. Is he still unemployed? Answer: yes. The U-6 measure is more accurate and is still above 10%.

An even more important number is the labor participation rate. It’s at a four decade low. Almost 40% of our workforce is not working. The number of people dependent on the government for subsistence (welfare, food stamps, etc.) is at an all time high and growing at an unsustainable rate.

The federal deficit as a percentage of GDP is at its lowest level in eight years.

That is a one-year statistic. I assume you know that the deficit measures the excess of expenses over revenues for a single fiscal year. Comparing it to GDP during a period begun when we were mired in a deep recession makes it virtually meaningless and certainly nothing to boast about.

The important number is the total debt. I’m one of those old-fashioned accountants that measures debt by our ability to pay it off.  We’re close to $19 trillion now—an all-time high. This president has now run up more debt than all other presidents combined.

Debt has a tipping point. Ask Donald Trump. He had four corporations to pass that tipping point. 
And what about our unfunded liabilities? Many economists say they are close to $180 trillion. That’s about $1.5 trillion per taxpayer. Nobody really knows because the government does not book such debts as liabilities. But they still have to be paid.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, stocks have nearly tripled.  

There you go again, using historical lows to measure gains. When you start low, it is easy to garner some impressive stats. I will grant you that the stock market has performed well (until recently). I am still invested. I used to tell my clients that I am always right about the markets, I just may be off by a decade or two, or three.

Why am I invested when I see America headed in the wrong direction? Because it is the only place where one has the best chance of generating income. Investors are forced to take risks they would rather not take during retirement years because our central bank has kept interest rates at historic lows and effectively taken away most investment options other than the stock market.  

I also believe that the market is no longer primarily driven by fundamentals. It is driven by interest rates and high-frequency trading. The days of studying a company’s financials, its history, its products or services, its place in the industry, and its management can be screwed up by a few wet-behind-the-ears stock jockeys who are more interested in where the stock is going in the next thirty seconds than in the next five years. Don’t believe that? How else can you explain the panic caused when the Fed mentions a mere quarter point rise in rates?

Perhaps when you a little older with a shorter time horizon, you will better understand those of us (as well as many Trump supporters) who want to change the direction of our country now, not ten years down the road. We’re tired of political elites who seem to believe that you must control both the White House and Congress to get anything done. History belies that silly notion.

Educational attainment in the country has never been higher.

I am not sure how one would go about measuring that and am not sure even of the definition. However, I am deeply concerned about what our young people are being taught in schools and colleges. Think socialism, class warfare, and forced income redistribution. And SAT scores are on a steady decline.

There are no class distinctions or caste systems to hold citizens back from economic success.

Using the eight years you like to compare, class and race divisions have taken a radical turn for the worse.

Americans have never been richer. Last week, the Federal Reserve reported that U. S. household net worth hit another all-time record of $85.7 trillion.

Ah yes, the ultra-secretive, unaudited Fed again. Having prepared hundreds of personal financial statement for clients, I know it can be a laborious process. How does the Fed know, for example, my net worth? I know technology has changed the world, but hopefully, some things are still secret.  Also, even if net worth is at an all time high, average income for the middle class is down.

In 2013, the U. S surpassed Russia to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer.  

That is definitely good news. However, because of the government, we still have restrictions on our ability to take full advantage. We have restrictions on finding, transporting (Keystone?) and exporting energy to compete with OPEC and Russia and take our earned place as an energy superpower.

Inflation is negligible.

How about those billions of dollars the Fed injected into the economy? Will that increase the money supply? Isn’t one of the indicators of inflation too many dollars chasing too few goods?

And the way we measure inflation has been changed so often that the reported stats are no longer trustworthy (they no longer includes "luxuries" like food or fuel, for example, because they keep showing pesky increases). If something we buy goes up too much to satisfy their politics, the bureaucrats just take it out of the equation.  For example, the battery in my Jeep failed recently. I bought it six years ago for $69 with a six year warranty. The replacement battery cost $140 with a three year warranty. That’s 34% per year increase for half the battery life. Is that inflation? And if you think that’s an anomaly, better think again. Inflation is when things go up, and virtually everything I buy has gone up by 8-10% per year for a decade.

Gold has spent the last four years looking like the last flight of the Hindenberg.

Using your own analogies about the future of stocks, wouldn’t that be a strong indicator to buy gold?

And then, finally, you quote two technology gurus (your description) and they say:
Violence is at an all time low and personal freedoms at a historic high.

“All time” indicates forever, I suppose, but are they talking about America or the world? The Economic Freedom Index shows America on a steady decline, dropping to number twelve. Even Canada and Chile surpass us. And violence—tell that to people in Chicago and most of America’s largest cities.

Groceries cost thirteen times less today than in 1870.

1870? Really? Is that a meaningful stat? How about compared to 2008? Been shopping lately?

Poverty has declined more in the last fifty years than in the previous 500.

Poverty has increased in the last fifty years, not declined, largely due to the War on Poverty. And were we keeping poverty records in 1515? And if we were, wouldn’t most people be considered poverty-stricken by today’s measures?

I suppose your article garnered so much attention because Donald Trump was in the title and you tried to discredit his negative views on the economy. Trump is a product of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama, political correctness, and what an open border policy is doing to our great country. Americans are hungry for anyone who will speak truth to power and be willing to take the slings and arrows sure to come their way (Trump, apparently can dish it out but can’t take it).

If you are giving advice to Trump supporters, you would have been better off to mention that he believes single payer healthcare works when it clearly does not, or that he was in favor of the disastrous 2008 bailout. Or maybe you could highlight the four corporate bankruptcies.  A lot of very competent people have declared personal bankruptcy or headed corporations that declared it. But four times in the same industry?

Trump even boasts about his timing and expertise in taking advantage of bankruptcy laws while employees and debtors took it in the shorts. Only a narcissist would boast about that, and we have had a narcissist as president. How’s that working out? Narcissism is a dangerous trait for the leader of anything.

Statistics are strange things. Much of what I stated here is my interpretation of stats or facts. The difference is that I admit it. You did not. You stated unequivocally that your statements were facts, when in many cases they were your interpretations of facts.

I applaud your optimism, but it seems to suggest complacence. If Thomas Jefferson did not say, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”, he should have. Many of us like a little vigilance mixed with our optimism. Or maybe you were just "drinking that sweet bubble-up and eating that rainbow stew".

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Try Me, Lord

During twenty-plus years of writing, the question of “Why?” comes up pretty often. Folks understand the business books I wrote in the beginning, but friends don’t understand why a guy who spent most of his career dealing in numbers would decide to try his hand at novels. 

Most of the time, I ask that question of myself. I have tried ad nauseam to explain to myself why I write. As Clayton Delaney told his young protégé Tom T. Hall about a career in music, “Ain’t no money in it. It’ll lead you to an early grave.”  

I have written quite a bit about my admiration for songwriters. They can tell a story in a single page that often takes a novelist a whole book to tell. One of my favorite songwriters is Kris Kristofferson. He can’t sing too well and is a mediocre actor, but he is one heck of a songwriter. 

Who doesn’t hum when someone mentions Help Me Make It Through the Night, or Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down, For the Good Times, or Me and Bobby McGee? What most don’t know is that his best- selling song was Why Me, commonly known as Why Me, Lord?. 

I could sing along with most of the lyrics to the song, but I never really paid much attention to the meaning of the words until about a year ago. I don’t remember why or exactly when I began to concentrate on the lyrics and their meaning. All I know is that usually means I was just meant to do that. 
I focused on these:
Try me, Lord, if you think there's a way
I can try to repay all I've taken from you
Maybe Lord, I can show someone else
What I've been through myself, on my way back to you

If that isn’t a good description for why I write, well, I don’t know what is. I focused on those words as I wrote the Believing in a Grand Thing section in A River of Stories. I have used the lyrics in a few presentations to writers and readers.

One recent Sunday morning (coming down?) wife Jan brought out her smart phone to the deck and showed me a video of the story behind the song. Someone had posted it on her Facebook page. It brought tears to my eyes as I heard Kris tell the story. Made me wonder why I did not look it up before. It’s short, so you can watch it here

Then, a week or so later, we attended a Festival at the Caney Creek Cowboy Church near Grand Saline. Old friend Don Edwards was performing.  Those of you who read A River of Stories may remember the tale of The Bard and the Balladeer. Don, of course, is the Balladeer. 

Guess what his second song was at Caney Creek? I had never heard him sing Why Me, Lord before. Sorry Kris, but his rendition is better than yours. After Don’s performance, I told him that he needed to outlive me, so he could sing that song at my funeral.

I love it when God winks.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reviews for Rails to a River

on July 19, 2015
Once again Jim Ainsworth has written a novel worthy of highest acclaim. His characters come to life and leave the reader feeling as if you've known them always. From the beginning, I couldn't put the book down because I was drawn in to the web of intrigue surrounding Tee Jessup. Tee is such a well developed character, very likable, and extremely believable. This is another winner from an amazing author.

on June 24, 2015
Another winner from one of my favorite writers. Read this one first, and then read "Firstborn Son." Characters are well-developed and believable.

on June 7, 2015
Rails to a River is the fifth book that I've read by Jim Ainsworth. It was an amazing read! I literally had to put the book down after the first two chapters and just digest what I had read. I think and I read in a very visual way. Jim's development of characters, descriptions of the scenes, and stitching together of the plot let the book flow through my mind so smoothly it was like watching a movie on the big screen. I truly look forward to getting "a'holt" of another one of Jim's books. Ken Ryan

on May 25, 2015
Jim has done it again! A wonderful story with believable characters. Each page draws you in deeper to the story.
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on April 29, 2015
Absolutely loved this book! If you haven't read Jim Ainsworth, you are missing out!

on March 30, 2015
Jim's characters draw you in --you feel and experience their lives as vividly as you experience your own. Jim is a wonderful storyteller, weaving personal knowledge and expertise into his plots! Wonderful reads!

on March 28, 2015
RAILS TO A RIVER is my first Jim Ainsworth novel, and it has been a true pleasure. I can’t compare it to any of his others, but I enjoyed the contemporary setting for an age-old sorrow where necessity drags a man away from his dreams. While some might call Tee Jessup shiftless because of his constant moving from one empty job to another, he is actually a man honoring what is true within him but at a cost. The story keeps you riveted because of the unexpected twists of characters and plot, but this masterful writer keeps all the ends tied so the reader doesn't trip over any of them. I haven’t read many books of late where I couldn't wait to get back to my Kindle, but this was one. Ainsworth’s passion for his Texas home, its cowboy history and the very land under his feet keeps his descriptions fresh and his story real.

on February 20, 2015
Ainsworth has written an intriguing story which cannot be predicted from one page to the next. The turns and twists are marvelously woven together to make the story live. I loved it. The only reason I did not give it five stars was I thought the protagonist rose to the top of his profession too quickly. Advancement in his chosen field comes more slowly than it was presented. Don't let that opinion keep you from reading this great story. It is well worth your time.

on February 15, 2015
Jim H Ainsworth is an avid story teller that writes in a style that I call easy reading. He carefully develops his characters, weaves his Christian background throughout his stories, and the stories keep your interest. I have read seven of Jim's books and I am currently reading the eighth. I find his writings to be both educational and inspirational. I recommend Jim H. Ainsworth to all ages

on February 14, 2015
Rails to a River is a masterful blend of the intricateness of corporate America and the cowboy way of life, two subjects Jim Ainsworth knows well. Truth and fiction are so smoothly interwoven, one can only imagine where Jim Ainsworth ends and Tee Jessup begins.

Recent Reviews for A River of Stories

By Jake G. via Amazon 
I just finished reading A River of Stories, and I'm amazed at the development of Jim Ainsworth's storytelling ability. The book is a collection of stories about life, family, friends and a quest to understand everything, and they reveal the depth of character of a truly wonderful writer and amazing man. The stories are not only entertaining, but many deliver underlying life messages and lessons that I wish could be plugged in and downloaded to my grandsons. I soon will be reading the last of this series, "Rails to a River", and I looked forward to the bar being raised even higher.
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on May 10, 2015
Jim Ainsworth is one of the few writers to write about a long-neglected, but significant region of the country--east Texas. This anthology records the area's mythology and simultaneously tells us Jim's own engaging narrative through a series of skillfully written stories and articles about his youth up to the present. In A River of Stories one gets to know Jim and east Texas. Their stories turn out to be, like those of all good writers, one and the same.
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on April 30, 2015
In today's majority Christian America, Biblical literacy is as rare as mathematical proficiency. In the last segment of A River of Stories - "Believing in a Grand Thing" - Jim displays his life-long discipline in "doing the math". He describes his cover-to-cover approach of reading through the Bible three times. Many Protestants do not know there are 400 years of Hebrew narrative missing in their Bibles when compared to Catholic versions. In addition, many are not aware that book order has nothing to do with the chronological order of the narrative. With this in mind, Jim's ability to mine so many nuggets of ancient wisdom is remarkable. This is an important book. Buy it. Read it.
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on April 23, 2015
Great collection of stories! I will enjoy reading them over and over again!
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on April 20, 2015
I was slow in reading this book due to being short stories, but once I became engaged with the stories, recognizing the true characters from his books, I could not put it down. I have been amazed at the many people Jim has met, drawing them into life long friendships. I must admit tears filled my eyes while
reading the eulogies. I believe I got a glimpse of Jim's character in all his books, but in "A Rivers of Stories" Jim revealed his heart. I loved this book so much, I plan on giving this book to others. I am looking forward to more books by this author.
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on April 13, 2015
This book is a collection of readable stories taken from the life of the author. It gives a new insight into his wonderful Rivers series and his new Tee Jessup series. I particularly liked his Bucket List chapter and his tribute to his father. This collection will certainly provide food for thought. Don't plan to breeze through the stories; stop and think about each one.
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on March 30, 2015
What a life... What an inspiration...what adventures! Thank you JIm, for sharing so many extraordinary experiences. Would love to be a fly on the tree next to some of the Cowhill Council's confabs! A River of Stories was a delightful collection.
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on March 1, 2015
These true stories are short, real, and very readable. One can dip in and out at will and still never lose touch with the Jim Ainsworth magic which can be found in each tale. In "The Eulogy I Never Delivered", Ainsworth does deliver a pitch-perfect, loving tribute to a father who comes alive on the page--a tribute which sets the tone for the rest of the book: genuine, heart-felt remembrances of interesting people, times, places. This author is an authentic cowboy/writer, one of the best--fiction or non-fiction.
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on February 26, 2015
While some have walked similar paths, few are brave enough to bare their souls as Jim Ainsworth has in A River of Stories. It is quite a ride, one you won't want to miss.
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on February 10, 2015
I loved Jim Ainsworth's new book, A RIVER OF STORIES. When a great story teller calls up memories of good cowboys, great horses
and growing up "rural" its better than homemade ice cream on a hot summers day.

John Moss, Pecan Gap, Texas
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