Bobbing Around

Volume 2, Number Three
December, 2002

Bob Rich's rave
email me


   This is a short issue, because I am half finished with my next book, and want to write the remaining 50,000 words or so within the next month. Want to know why?

*About Bobbing Around
guidelines for contributions
*From Atlantic Bridge
*Responses to the last issue
Two to John Gorman, one to Pamela Faye.
*A contest!
What's that for?
(An examination of the human breast.)
'Popularity vs Importance' by Sally Odgers
'Do YOU Think in the Past Tense?'
'Untapped Market for Writers' by Lori Avocato
'Find a Critique Partner at CritPal' by Mark Ray
Me first!
Not the Usual Way Christmas contest
'Father Of The Year' by Sarah Mankowski
LiFE Award: Literature For Environment
'Seeing the Wizard' by John Gorman
Mind Reading: THE Major Cause of Conflict.
*Book Reviews
Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders
McLellan's Bluff
Surviving a brain tumour.

Thank you, Linda Ebertharter

   This e-zine is distributed with the generous help of Atlantic Bridge Publishers. As a form of 'payment', I have offered to Linda, the Publisher, that I would publish a press release about a book of her choice.

   This time, Linda selected McClellan's Bluff, sequel to Rosemount by Mary E. Trimble.

About the book:

   In McClellan's Bluff, Leslie Cahill, now seventeen, falls in love with an "older" man, twenty-eight year old Sloan Stroh. She's flattered by the attention of this neighboring cowboy and is swept along by her strong emotions. Sloan dominates Leslie's every moment, albeit in her mind, at least. Her father and brother strongly object to the relationship not only because of the considerable age difference, but because they do not trust Sloan's intentions. Leslie learns Sloan's dark secret, which dates back many years to her mother's death. McClellan's Bluff takes place in Washington's ranch country.

   Mary E. Trimble, a Northwest writer, draws on personal experiences including purser and ship's diver aboard the tall ship Explorer; Peace Corps in West Africa; sailing 13,000 miles throughout the South Pacific; extensive overland RV trips and her involvement locally and nationally with the American Red Cross. Her 300-plus articles have appeared in national and local publications. Her first novel, Rosemount, a young adult contemporary western, has received high acclaim.

   Look it up at Atlantic Bridge

Responses to the last issue

   I have had two emails in response to John Gorman's article on war and terrorism. Here they are:

Hi there Bob!

   When you asked for submissions, I looked up your newsletters and read the article by John Gorman. I am not going to flame him, I know it's against your rules, but is this guy an American? By God, if someone attacks me, surely I have the right and duty to self-defence. Wasn't it President Coolidge who said, "Smile and carry a big stick" or something? Well, the smile hasn't worked so I am 100% behind Mr Bush for wielding the big stick. looking forward to John Gorman's response.

Be good,
Alan Jones.

   John is never stuck for a response to anything. Here is his reply:

   In the interest of historical accuracy, it was President Theodore Roosevelt who said "Walk softly and carry a big stick," not "Silent Cal" Coolidge who seldom said anything at all.

   If America walked a bit more softly and trampled on fewer peoples and countries, it would probably not need anywhere near so big a stick, since it would have far fewer enemies.

   The right to self-defense is clear, but it does not include revenge, especially against civilians who have the bad luck to live in the "wrong" countries and suffer under the rule of the "wrong" tyrants.

   As Ghandi remarked, "If we are to have an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the whole world will soon be eyeless and toothless."

   John Gorman has contributed several essays to Bobbing Around. He is a journalist of vast experience, who has researched and written a gripping historical adventure, King of the Romans. This book was a finalist in the Historical section of the EPPIE 2001 Awards, and is for sale at Awe-Struck Books.


   I agree with you, John Gorman is a courageous man to have stood against the general hysteria. In last night's news I saw that some Canadians are going to Iraq to stand under the bombs, should President Bush decide to drop them.

   There has been far too much war, far too much hatred, far too much killing. And vendettas don't work unless they descend to genocide. Each time you hit back, you increase the other side's desire to hit back at you.

Good on you, John Gorman!
Alison :-)

Hi Bob,

   I'm sorry it took so long to get over to your site and read your latest newsletter. For some strange reason, my clock only gives me 24 hours a day to get everything done before the next day starts.

   I won't lie and say I read all of the articles, because I didn't. I did read the ones that interested me. One in particular caught my eye. That was 'A New Language For E-Mails?' ... by Pamela Faye.

   She brings up a valid point about how casual many of us have become when sending out email messages. We work very hard at writing our best, and making sure our work is edited, when writing a book. Yet we become extremely lax when composing emails.

   I know I am guilty of this at times. Also, I find myself being especially lacksadaisical when posting to groups.

   However, I still try to maintain proper grammar when I am corresponding with a person I am doing business with, be it personal or promoting my book.

   We have gone far beyond the days when men wore suits and ties to work, and a woman would get fired for wearing pants to a desk job. Casual wear buried most men's ties the same as it did for women's hats and gloves.

   For the last few years that I have been able to send and receive emails, I hardly ever write a (snail mail) letter anymore.

   If anyone of us were to receive the same amount of snail mail as we do emails, I would venture to guess we would drop a lot of protocol, such as Dear Sue and Very truly yours when answering the regular mail. It is like living in the fast lane. If you slow down, you get knocked out of the race.

   In order to keep up with the WWW correspondence and the many groups most of us belong to, if we would take the time to make sure our sentences were grammatically correct, and take time to check our spelling and our punctuation, we would be so far behind that we would never catch up.

   I also believe that there is a feeling of camaraderie on the internet. Not to long ago, I wrote to a reviewer: Dear Mr. Davis. He answered back: Hi Bobby. The next email I sent him, I kept it friendly, also: Hi Joe. I had never met the man before, yet we instantly became cyber friends. Protocol was dropped. I have never found that to happen in snail mail correspondence.

   Using incorrect grammar in casual emails and group postings, in my opinion, is acceptable considering the cyber-world we live in today. As long as we remember to cross our t's and dot our i's when we do our 'official' writing, what can it hurt?

   I would be interested to know your opinion, and any other people's opinion on this subject.


   Bobby Ruble's psychological thriller Have No Mercy can be inspected at During Robert L. Ruble’s vast military and law enforcement career, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Brenau College, was listed in both the 1980 and 1983 editions of Who’s Who in American Law Enforcement, and in the 1986 edition of Men of Achievement. He received the James Madison Award for Excellence in Journalism for his article, “The Tale of Two Gun Cities.” In 2001, he had a non-fiction short story published in The Mystery Journal. Bobby will also have a story in the soon to be released, Romancing the Stone anthology, compiled by award winning author Dorothy Thompson.

For Writers

Sally Odgers
Bob Rich
Lori Avocato
Mark Ray

Popularity vs Importance

by Sally Odgers

   I was reading an author's bio over on a website today. The author mentioned her Most Popular title and then the one she considered her Most Important.

   Naturally, they weren't the same book.

   The Most Popular title was a fun easy-read while the Most Important dealt with a major social issue. In this author's eyes, Issues are clearly more valuable than Entertainment although she likes to offer both.

   This short bio made me think about my own writing, and about my favourite books. What makes a book Popular? If writers and publishers knew that, we would all be writing best sellers. The best explanation I can come up with is that a popular book will have widespread appeal. It may touch the heart, provoke anger or pity or pleasure or excitement or thankfulness. Unfortunately, it may also appeal to the less pleasant side of human nature.

   What makes a book Important? This is, at first thought, easier to answer. An Important book must be one that makes a strong impact on its readers. It may also play a part in revealing or improving some part of society. One would term "Uncle Tom's Cabin" an Important book, because it helped lead to the abolition of slavery. Apparently it isn't too popular with modern African Americans but it was never written for them. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was also a Popular book. It had to be, otherwise it would have had little or no impact on society.

   Some books are considered Important by reviewers. These are usually the books I like least, usually because the issue overshadows the story. I love books where strong ideas are introduced and discussed, but I hate to be manipulated. I prefer to make up my own mind.

   My favourite books show protagonists making up their own minds, choosing their own paths, accepting or changing the cut of their situations according to their cloth. This is what I consider Important.

   I consider some of my own books more Important than others, not because they deal with social issues, but because of the ways in which my protagonists face, accept or change their situations. But these are not my most Popular titles. Nor do reviewers label them Important. I am sorry about that.

   Sally Odgers is one of Tasmania's most active writers, and is usually in the midst of her latest w.i.p, reading in the bath or walking the dog. Her favourite writing is fantasy but she also enjoys writing articles. For more about Sally's work, including her Affordable Assessments service, visit her at

Do YOU think in past tense?

by Bob Rich

   I have noticed a strange tendency among many writers, including the authors of highly popular books. Their characters think in the past tense.

   What do I mean?

   'Jack dragged himself through the door, thinking I was so tired! He flopped onto the couch.'

   I THINK the author meant that Jack felt tired right there and then, as he walked in. But did the passage say that?

   No, the passage implied that Jack had been tired at some previous time. Surely, if he was thinking about his current state, the thought would be I am so tired!

   I deliberately picked an example that shows up how ridiculous this custom is. And yet, I have read it in highly acclaimed hardcover books, released by large publishers. The heroine tiptoes into danger, thinking Oh, it was so scary… You will find examples everywhere now that I have sensitised you to the problem.

   When you quote dialogue, you report what people have actually said. Consider this conversation:

   Now imagine it to be reported in past tense:


   Right, now that you understand this little point, we'll have one less issue to debate when I edit your book :-)

Untapped Market for Writers?

by Lori Avocato

   Recently I decided to try selling my books on the Arts and Crafts circuit. Great idea being this close to Christmas. I sold more at the last fair than at any bookstore(I averaged from 11-22 per fair). I'm thinking this is an untapped market if you can purchase your own books at a good author's discount. In less than a month, I sold 53 books this way. I figure I'm building a readership.

   And, I learned to promote myself. The governor of Connecticut, Governor Rowland, came in to one of the Craft Fairs with his entourage to do some last minute politicking. It was three days before Election Day.

   Instead of rushing up to him for a handshake or picture, I snatched up one of the two books that I was selling--my short contemporary romantic comedy, THE PRINCE'S BRIDE. I quickly signed it and waited until he neared my table. Then I stepped out from behind my booth and plastered on the friendliest, "Republican" smile I could muster. I said, "Excuse me, Governor Rowland. I am a local author and would like to donate my book to you for your wife."

   He graciously took it (what else could he do:)), looked at the back a minute and said, "This is great. She loves romances. This is the kind of book she likes to read." Go First Lady Rowland! Now here's where promoting yourself comes into play. I snagged the promo opportunity and said, "Oh, then you should buy my OTHER book." He laughed and said, "You're right. I should."

   And he did.

   After he'd asked me to personally sign both books to his wife (and paid for one of them:)), he said, "This is great. You don't know how you've made my day. Now my wife will think that I thought about her today--and bought her a gift."

   I said, "Great. Feel free to take the credit for the idea. Oh, that's right. You should do good at that since you're a politician."

   He laughed and said, "Hey, Lor, we wrote the rules on stuff like that."

   When he called me "Lor" I felt as if the governor and I were old buddies.:) Now my books are in the Connecticut Governor's mansion.

   And, yes, the main reason I voted for him that following Tuesday was so that I could still say my books were there. I really would have been bummed if he'd lost.

   So, seize every opportunity you can to promote yourself and your work. Check out your local newspapers for craft fairs at this time of the season. You do have to pay to rent the table (often between $10-$25), but I've always made up the cost. Think of it as starting the wheels grinding towards snagging new readers.

   Hopefully out of the 53 that bought my books, they'll tell at least one person who will buy, and they'll tell get the picture.

Lori Avocato
Third place winner in the Arizona Author's Assoc. Contest

Find a Critique Partner at CritPal

by Mark Ray

   Finding someone with the time, skill, and forthrightness to critique a novel-length manuscript can be a real challenge. You can read a chapter or two in a face-to-face critique group, but you'll only get snap impressions about the material. You can post an excerpt in an online critique group, but you have no way of knowing whether the people critiquing you have any idea what they're talking about. You can show your manuscript to your spouse or significant other, but you can be sure he or she will absolutely love it. (If not, you may have a bigger problem than plotting or characterization!)

   CritPal is different. It's a free service that lets you form one-to-one critiquing partnerships with other novelists. Each CritPal member posts a sample chapter and an ad that details his or her genre, style, experience, what he or she is looking for in a partner, and what he or she can offer. Once you find a likely prospect, you contact him or her by email to set up a partnership.

   The great thing about CritPal is that you and your partner control every aspect of the partnership. You can trade single chapters or entire manuscripts. You can critique completed manuscripts or manuscripts in progress. You can ask your partner to focus on particular areas where you're having trouble. You can exchange revised manuscripts based on previous critiques. Whatever works for you and your partner--and your manuscripts--works for CritPal.

   Mark Ray is a freelance writer based in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. Mark focuses primarily on technology writing and corporate communications work and is the author of The Eagle Court of Honor Book, a book of Boy Scout ceremonies.

What my Friends and I Want You to Know

Bob Rich
Not The Usual Way

Bob Rich

   I have some bad news, some good news and some interesting news.

   Alas, after thirteen years of being in continuous print, the Earth Garden Building Book is now officially without a home. Penguin ran out of the last print run in February, but didn't think to let anyone know. I found out about this in August, when an indending buyer let me know. I wrote the best sales letter I could, and got a favourable response. They would look seriously at my proposals.

   They did, and canned the project anyway.

   The good news is that the book I am currently working on has already won a prize. I don't have the time to write new material for contests nowadays, but this one was too good to pass up. The New Zealand Writers had the brilliant idea of holding a 'first page' competition. After all, those first few paragraphs are the most important for any book. If you don't feel like reading beyond that first page, you won't buy, will you?

   All I needed to do was to copy and paste existing text, and to pay my fee. I had time enough for this.

   Here are the comments from the judge, NZ thriller writer Andrew Grant:

   If you wish, you can read this page, as well as the first chapter, at my web site.

   And finally the interesting news. Every year, prominent Australian writer John Marsden runs a 'writers' conference' at his beautiful country property. He hires senior editors from the big publishing houses to read a book by each participant. During the three days of the conference, writers get feedback from the editors and each other, learn lots, make friends. And the lucky ones leave with a contract.

   I could never afford to participate in the past, but now I have American dollars coming in, mostly for my editing work. I propositioned John. He'd never heard of PayPal, but was willing to do the unusual.

   This is why you mightn't hear much from me until mid-January, the deadline. I want to finish The Stranger Who Loved Me by then.

Not the Usual Way

Christmas contest puts readers in a holiday mood

   NUW Independent Authors Community is hosting its 2nd Annual NUW Christmas Contest. The contest begins on December 1st and runs through December 25th.

   In addition to the chance of winning free autographed books, each participating author has created a Christmas site that includes free recipes, short stories and more.

   Contestants will start from the main Christmas site, and then visit each participating author's site for clues. It will be a virtual find-the-title-of-the-book scavenger hunt. Everyone is welcome to join in on the fun. For more information and a list of the prizes, go to

Sarah Mankowski
LiFE Award

Father Of The Year
by Sarah Mankowski

   I could hear a frantic flapping when my neighbor placed the shoebox into my hands. He had found the fledgling cardinal on the road. She was lost and frightened, and it would be impossible to locate the nest in the dark. Could I look after her? What could I do? The wildlife hospital is nearly 30 miles away. Since the cardinal appeared to be unharmed, I decided to keep her overnight. I would take her to the wildlife experts in the morning, if the nest could not be located. She seemed content to drink water from my finger, and soon fell asleep in her makeshift nest.

   The following morning the eager, gaping mouth devoured bits of raw hamburger from my finger. But how inadequate I felt in the role of mamma cardinal. If I were careful and lucky, I might keep her alive, but she needed her family!

   Where was the nest?

   My son and I took her out onto the screened back porch, to let her flap her wings a bit, before taking her on the long drive to the wildlife hospital. Since we could not locate her parents, we needed to get her into the hands of people who were properly trained to look after wild birds.

   She didn't seem interested in flapping her wings. She sat on my finger, silent, alert. Then, she began a steady, persistent chirp. After a few minutes I heard an answering chirp, and then, to my astonishment, I saw the bright red wings. The father circled the yard a few times, each time circling closer to the porch, always answering his frightened daughter's chirps.

   He settled in a nearby tree and I placed the fledgling on a lower branch. We backed off and watched, ready to assist if she should fall. She didn't fall. She sat quietly, waiting for her father to come to her. He made peculiar sounds as he approached, some sort of mysterious cardinal communication, assuring his daughter that all was well.

   He lit on the branch directly in front of her, flapping his wings, urging her to do the same. Within a matter of minutes, father and daughter had vanished into the upper branches.

   The father didn't try to coax her back to the nest. He seemed to understand her limitations. I suppose he found some suitable spot in the vicinity, among the higher branches. During the week that followed we saw him frequently, foraging for insects. Since that day, both the father and mother are often seen at the feeder. And the fledgling? I suppose I wouldn't recognize her, nor would she recognize me.

   I will never forget the frightened fledgling and the devoted father. During those brief moments he exhibited every characteristic necessary to be a wonderful father. He came quickly when he heard his daughter's cry. He comforted her fears, and with gentle persistence he taught her how to fly.

UPDATE: One evening, a few weeks after we returned the fledgling to the father, we were astonished to see both parents and daughter foraging in the herb garden, right outside our living room window. They hung around until it was almost dark, while we watched with joy through the window. She really was ok!

   Sarah sent me an email asking me if I was interested in a story about her true experience with a fledgling cardinal. I asked her what she was doing with a senior priest. She replied 'All the cardinals of my acquaintance have red feathers and root around my flowerbeds for seeds. Our neighborhood seems to be a popular nesting ground for a variety of birds, but the cardinals are the most devoted parents. We can always count on nesting season for unexpected drama.'

   Sarah Mankowski owns and edits and, websites for online writers. Born and raised in Central Florida, she has called the Space Coast home for the past seventeen years. Her educational background is actually in horticulture. She is an avid butterfly gardener.

LiFE Award: Literature For Environment

logo of LiFE Award

   I am delighted to announce that the LiFE Award has several new recipients. These are books of all kinds that show a sensitivity for our small planet. Their authors deserve your support.

   The eight recipients include a romance, two children's books, a comic/philosophy book about the car, science fiction and fantasy.

   If you know any book of any kind that will qualify, do encourage the author or publisher to apply for the Award. There are only two kinds of people: conservationists and suicides. Those of us who care about the future should help each other.

Seeing the Wizard

by John Gorman

   Although this film was made in the late Thirties and shows its age, The Wizard of Oz has acquired the durability and audience associated with a classic. What goes on here?

   The movie, as well as the book on which it is based, can easily be read as a parable. Indeed, author L. Frank Baum himself thought of his work as a parable for America in the Industrial Age at the start of the Twentieth Century. Like any parable, it remains relevant to the times that follow, as we substitute technology for magic, keeping mind that many of the marvels promised by magicians of old can now be performed easily by machines.

   Dorothy is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, uncertain where her life is to go. Will she accept the reality of Depression Kansas, or will she choose the fantasy world "over the rainbow"? In one sense, her extraordinary powers of imagination have already marked her as a witch with her own familiar, Toto, and with some choices made before the story opens.

   The witch of the east represents technology coupled with conscious, deliberate evil, the pursuit of power only to do harm. She has reduced the inhabitants of her realm, the Munchkins, to terrorized, half-human dwarves, and, as they know, she can only be destroyed by another witch, one worthy to wear her ruby slippers.

   Her sister, the Witch of the West, is certainly no better. She too, as we see later, is surrounded by monsters, the Winged Monkeys, who obey her out of fear. Her threats to to stuff a mattress with the Scarecrow and make a beehive out of the Woodman seem almost prophetic after the horrors of the Holocaust with lamp shades of human skin and ashtrays made from skulls.

   The Witch of the North stands for the power of technology joined with conscious and deliberate benevolence. She has no fear of the Witch of the West. But even her powers are limited.

   The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Lion are all victims of technology, so specialized that their natural qualities are lost, and their humanity stolen. When we thing of what genetic alterations have already accomplished, these three seem more like part of a plausible future than characters in a fairy tale.

   The Emerald City presents a surrealistic picture of a society where technology has become an end in itself, where things are done merely because it is possible to do them. While hardly the home of evil, the city has lost all contact with reality and cannot be home to Dorothy or her companions.

   The Wizard is the typical scientist of film and literature, benevolent but befuddled. Physically puny, but powerful through his technology. Yet he is unable to restore the human qualities stolen by that technology and has only an empty show for Dorothy and her fellow seekers as he recruits them for a mission too great for his own powers. Only human action can restore humanity, as the subsequent battle with the Witch of the West shows.

   The book has episodes not included in the film that make this point clear. In the movie, this thesis is most strongly stated when the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Woodman, despite the Winged Monkeys' attack that has seen Dorothy and Toto kidnaped and themselves left barely alive, decide to continue their quest and rescue Dorothy, cost what it may. From then on the Witch is in serious trouble.

   After their victory, the Wizard hands out awards which are, in fact, nothing more than recognition for what the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Woodman have already achieved. Dorothy, having decided to return to Kansas, can go home. But the Wizard's balloon is blown away, and only magic can take her back, a portent for the future.

   Baum wrote many sequels to The Wizard, as Dorothy returns to Oz to answer the call of its inhabitants who need her courage and her skills. Having seen Oz with all its wonders and its terrors, Dorothy can never be fully at home in Kansas again.

Who is John Gorman?

Surviving a Brain Tumour

   Case number 27 in my book Personally Speaking: Single session email therapy with Dr Bob Rich answered a desperate plea from a lady who'd just been diagnosed with a large brain tumour. The operation was sheduled for her 37th birthday--and her father had died of brain surgery 24 years before, exactly on his 37th birthday.

   Our exchange of emails was two years ago. This is what she'd written to me recently:

Hi Bob,

   I wanted to tell you how I am doing. At the time I was diagnosed, my brain tumor looked much worse than it ended up being. Although the tumor was large (2.4 - 3.0 cm) it was classified as Craniopharyngioma which is benign. I spent 6 months researching doctors (no rush as the tumor was benign and not really growing much) and found the best surgeon for that type of tumor in the world. Dr. Hae Dong Jho in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can see his site at He specializes in Micro-neurosurgery and minimally invasive techniques. Most surgeons I spoke with wanted to perform a craniotomy or a transphenoidal operation with incisions from 2 inches - 6 inches long in my skull with chances of complications (seizure, stroke, meningitis, memory loss, severe hypothalamus damage, CSF leak, personality change etc.) in the range of 20-40% of the time.

   Dr. Jho's incision was the size of a pencil eraser and his track record showed his chances of complications were in the 1-2% range -- so I went with him. I was only in the hospital for 2 days and my recovery was fast -- it just felt like I had the flu for the first 6 days after my surgery. I had my surgery on my 38th birthday (2/13/01) and since then I've had one 12 month post operative MRI and all looks great.

   The tumor has a 10-30% chance of recurrence so I'll need an annual MRI for the rest of my life and the tumor destroyed my pituitary gland and part of my hypothalamus so I'm on lots and lots of medication but all is well. I got to stay home from work for 9 weeks. Dr. Jho's incision did break through the skull and the dura (sack around the brain/infection risk) and it was brain surgery after all - so for 8 weeks I just read novels all day and hung out with the dog.

   Your answer really helped me. I felt strongly that I had to go with someone who practiced the latest surgical techniques as most neurosurgeons still use a very old, invasive method for removing a Craniopharyngioma. It turns out that there were only 2 surgeons in the USA at the time that practiced the minimally invasive neurosurgery techniques for benign pituitary tumors. In 2001, even the Mayo clinic still used the old, archaic approach to a pituitary tumor...but now they offer the minimally invasive approach.

   Thanks to your advice and my diligent research...My dad may have died at age 37 from brain surgery but I did not. I survived and I'm a reasonably healthy 39 year old with a great husband and family.

   I also volunteer for the pituitary network at -- helping those newly diagnosed to navigate the waters of selecting a neurosurgeon and to understand myriad of treatment options that will be offered to them.

   So your advice was right on! I found the latest technology and volunteered to help others and it made a world of difference in my recovery!

My Heartfelt Thanks,
Joanie Redwing
Brain Tumor Survivor/Advocate

A contest!

What's that for?
An examination of the breast.

   To an alien intelligence, the human breast must seem to be a bizarre object. For some reason, half the population sports a pair of fat-filled skin bags, which have no useful purpose whatever. Both halves of the population are obsessed with this feature, though for different reasons.

   Don't tell me the breast is a feeding device. Some mammals extrude a nourishing substance from skin glands without any associated bumps. Cows have a bag that is actually a milk container. The breast isn't. Most species grow a swelling under the teat while feeding young, then it recedes when out of use.

   Anyway, what proportion of a woman's life is spent lactating? Why should the breast hang on, long after menopause?

   I know a woman who sports barely more than nipples, and yet she successfully breast-fed a horde of offspring. Another lady has huge appendages, but had to bottle-feed all her kids.

   Is the breast a decoration then, like colored feathers on a bird, or a lion's mane, or a man's beard?

   Some breasts are, at least for a while… No more said, or I'll get lynched. But a pair of mammaries that resemble those of Venus de Milo are a rarity. Even with the uplifting and averaging effects of bras, human breasts vary from pimples to zucchinis, from ping-pong balls to pillows, from proudly elevated orbs to sadly drooping obstacles.

   To their owners, breasts are a consistent source of trouble.

   They are often embarrassing in the extreme when they first show, painful as they grow, sources of distress if they are less developed than others', attractions for the wrong kinds of premature attention if they are early -- a young girl's bumps may not be assets.

   How many mothers suffer cracked nipples or mastitis? And once the baby is weaned, there come the dreaded stretch marks.

   Once they sag a little, they provide breeding places for skin-eating fungi. More seriously, the older the owner, the more at risk she is from cancer.

   So, tell me. Why do women have breasts? Are they a design fault?

   The funniest answers to this question will earn you a free copy of any of my books, (go to to choose), and publication in a future issue of 'Bobbing Around'. Word limit is 500.

Mind Reading: THE Major Cause of Conflict

   Here is a one-line poem: It takes genius to state the obvious.

   Aaron Beck's book Love is Never Enough taught me a fact that now stares me in the face everywhere, in my own life, in the world around me, in the processes that make my clients miserable.

   Consider this scenario.

   My wife Jolanda is busy. She is doing several things at once, and in the middle of this calls out "Darling, can you please bring in some firewood, we're right out of it."

   I am doing nothing more important than playing Free Cell on the computer. But getting up would be too much effort, so I answer "OK, I'll go and do it in a while."

   Five minutes later, she says "Right, I'm ready for a cup of coffee, would you like one?"

   I shout, "OK, OK, I said I'll get some!" and storm out to fetch the wood.

   Let me emphasise, this is a HYPOTHETICAL illustration. In that situation, I would not blow up (though I might have before I read Beck's book). I'd look at her and ask "Is that a genuine offer, or a little nudge to get me off my bum?"

   Whichever it was, she'd tell me. And even if it was a subtle way of saying "Here I am working away, and you can't even do this little thing, just sit there wasting your time," asking the question and listening to the answer will have given me time to be rational, instead of shooting from the emotions.

   In Beck's terminology, the problem in the scenario was mind reading. She said something, I heard something… but the received message may or may not have been the one she sent.

   Very often, when two people make each other angry, one or both of them was mind reading, and getting the message wrong.

   The problem can start small, then the previous misunderstanding changes our expectations of the other person, so we are more likely to read evil intent into their words and actions. And of course, this will induce the same the other way. A circle is set up, which is like a vendetta. Like blood begets blood, misunderstanding begets misunderstanding. Indeed, even murders can grow from such little seeds.

   So, next time someone may have said something nasty to you, ask a clarifying question before reacting. You will find that life becomes more pleasant.

Book Reviews

Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders
McLellan's Bluff

Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders:
Success Stories, Strategies, and Other Good News

Edited by Jenna Glatzer with commentary by Dr Paul Foxman

Published by Hunter House
Available in paperback (or hardcover directly from the publisher's website)
ISBN: 0897933818
More information at:
Available in U.S. bookstores, or on or

   This book is a must for everyone who has suffered from undue anxiety, or from a long list of physical symptoms that has had the doctors baffled -- for not all doctors recognize the symptoms of anxiety. It is also a wonderful resource for psychologists. I have been a psychologist for a long time, and have worked with many an anxiety sufferer, but I learned lots from Dr. Foxman's comments at the end of each chapter. For example, 'In order for PTSD victims to improve, they must give themselves permission to recover.' Many of the contributors taught me new insights too.

   The book contains thirty-one personal stories. They are indexed by the problem affecting the sufferer, and by the helpful techniques described within the stories.

   From the Foreword by Professor David Barlow, who is a leader in the field of research on the treatment of anxiety disorders: 'Not everyone benefits from the same treatment. Among those who do benefit from one or another treatment, not everyone is "cured." That is why the book you are about to read is so important. It is increasingly easy to find descriptions of one treatment or another in a magazine or on a website. But seldom do we find how individuals,-- real people -- incorporate these treatments into their lives along with many other techniques, remedies, and suggestions that have enabled each of the thirty-two individuals portrayed in this book to fight the good fight and overcome, for the most part, their anxiety disorders.'

   Jenna Glatzer's Prologue: 'While editing this book, I also got a few notes from people who wrote to tell me that this was a futile effort, because no one really "recovers" from an anxiety disorder; they just learn to deal with it better. I didn't come this far in my life to learn how to "deal." I came here to conquer. I told these naysayers, with all due respect, that the entire purpose of my book was to prove them wrong.'

   Dr Foxman reports in his Introduction that anxiety disorders are the most common sources of distress, outranking even depression. He states that 25% of Americans will suffer from severe anxiety at some point in their lifetime. A recovered sufferer himself, he writes: 'My treatment philosophy is based on the belief that anxiety is largely a learned reaction to stress, and that with practice it can be replaced by more productive responses.'

   The first chapter is Jenna's own story, and it had me in tears: wonderful evocative writing worthy of a great novelist -- and every word ringing true. I have worked with agoraphobics, and this was it.

   I was rather saddened that many of the contributors could only climb out of their terrible situation through the extended use of drugs. Dr. Foxman's comments on this issue are valid and wise.

   Renee Decter's story shows that even the worst cases of anxiety disorder can be beaten through therapy alone, without drugs.

   In my experience, drugs may be necessary in the initial stages of fighting back, so that the sufferer can mask the symptoms enough to have the energy to fight back. Beyond that, it is actually helpful to be able to feel the anxiety, so that it can be weakened with cognitive-behavioural tools. You can only work on the problem when you feel it.

   I could lift many wonderful quotes from the many contributors, but a few will do: in Chapter 6, Kim Phelan wrote: 'Anxiety is a gift in that it forces us to change if we can face the challenge of dealing with it.' Gene Gillam in Chapter 13 made me want to hug him as he wrote: 'So what if you fall down? That's why they invented getting up.' Jacqueline Hampton in Chapter 22: 'Sometimes the best way to conquer fear is to give yourself permission to be afraid of something and then to do it anyway.'

   Jenna writes at the end: 'I want you to close this book with three thoughts in mind: You are not crazy, you are not alone, and there is hope.' This is spot on.

   The Resources section at the end of the book is a valuable list of tools for fighting anxiety.

   As an editor, I often get annoyed with published books that are poorly written, full of typos and poor in grammar. This book was wonderfully produced. I found only one minor typo, and it is clear that Jenna is as meticulous in the writing part of her work as in the healing.

McLellan's Bluff
by Mary Trimble
Reviewed by Cindy Penn

   In MCCLELLAN'S BLUFF author Mary Trimble proves her gift for confronting the complexities teens face as they learn to define their identities and establish their independence as young adults. Indeed, Trimble truly understands the driving restlessness of teen years and the incredible attraction inherent in the interest of a much older man. She cautiously avoids the intricate legal implications by avoiding intimate relations between Leslie and Sloan, although in most states Leslie is certainly of the age of consent, including Washington where the story is set. Further, Trimble does not in any way back away from the emotional issues a romance between a seventeen year old and a man eleven years older. As Leslie learns, dating a much older man not only arouses the concern of family, but also thrusts her into a relationship with expectations she is not prepared to fulfill. An impressive example of the complications of teen years, MCCLELLAN'S BLUFF comes very highly recommended.

Cindy Penn,

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