Bobbing Around

Volume Three, Number Eight
May, 2004

Bob Rich's rave
email me
bobswriting.com/  anxietyanddepression-help.com/  mudsmith.net/  other issues

 
*About Bobbing Around
  subscribe/unsubscribe
  guidelines for contributions
Books Eat Forests
  The press release I wrote for EPIC.
*Life as a black-and-white photo:
  an email friend on antidepressants.
*Social phobia.
*'I love my therapist'
  A response from Cheryl O'Brien
*The Drug Pogrom
  by John Gorman
*Sizzling Summer Contest
  Win great prizes.
*Read an e-book week
*Announcements
  Bobby Woodall goes to Hollywood
  John Bailey's first book
  Rita Toews and Alex Domokos have a new crime novel
  Jim Chu on how you can change your life
  Jaden Katsuura's love poems
  Dorothy Thompson's articles
*Ergonomics
  The door knob
*Stories for your entertainment:
  David Hooper: 'Outhouse Blues'
  Geoff Nelder: 'Open Bracket'
*Thank You, Atlantic Bridge.

   Bobbing Around is COPYRIGHTED. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, at any venue, without the express permission of the publisher (ME!) and the author if that is another person. You may forward the entire magazine to anyone else.

   I am responsible for anything I have written. However, where I reproduce contributions from other people, I do not necessarily endorse their opinions. I may or may not agree with them, but give them the courtesy of a forum.



*For writers:
  Genre Fiction: Freshness Alert by Shannah Biondine.
  So you wanna win a contest? by Cheryl Wright.
*Book reviews
  A reader's comments about Anikó.
  I am not strange after all.
  Murder and mayhem

Books Eat Forests

The press release I wrote for EPIC

   After many rejections, an author finally finds a publisher. The book comes out, sits on the shelves for a few weeks -- then the print run is pulped.

   If this weren't true, and a fiction writer invented it, no-one would believe the concept. It's just too bizarre. And yet it happens, time and again.

   There is a joke in the publishing industry. The only people who make money from books are the transport companies who take new books from publisher to bookshop, and unsold returns back again.

This costs all of us

   Even if you have never bought a book, you are paying for the wastage. Books are made from trees. Trees keep us all alive. Climate change has already occurred. It's killed people and destroyed property through the increased severity of storms, bushfires, droughts, floods. In some places, global warming is causing excessively cold winters. Think of what will happen if melting polar ice changes the sea currents like the Gulf Stream.

   You are paying for the destruction of forests through erosion of topsoil, increased cost of building, pollution of waterways.

   Your children, our children, are paying even more. Their future is being pulped by the inefficiencies of the publishing industry.

New technology offers solutions

   It doesn't have to be done this way. Technology is now available to do it better.

   There is a vital and burgeoning new industry of electronic publishers. The large, established publishing industry could also join in, but even if they choose to be dinosaurs, you can benefit from the many advantages of electronic books. This is far more than the environmental benefits of not wasting paper. Have a look at www.bobswriting.com/e-books2.html or www.epicauthors.org/ to find out about the many ways electronic books will benefit you: lower price, the ability to zoom in for easier reading, less weight to carry and many other excellent features.

   But if you must have a book on paper, you can do it without supporting environmental idiocy. This is through print on demand technology. Instead of a warehouse full of books that may never be sold, the book can be printed one at a time, in the few minutes it would take to buy and drink a cup of coffee. No more wastage, no more returns.
 

   EPIC, the organisation of writers who support electronic publication of their books, is doing everything in its power to advance these new, environmentally responsible solutions. Look it up at www.epicauthors.org/. One of the surprises will be the high quality and freshness of the books they offer. Why put up with the same old tired formulas?


A review of
Anikó: The stranger who loved me.

by 'Konyvesevike'

   A Canadian lady of Hungarian origins bought my book Anikó: The stranger who loved me. This was the first e-book she'd ever read, but she's been back to buy Sleeper, Awake. Here is in extract of what she thought of Anikó

   I recently finished reading Dr. Bob Rich's incredible book about his mom, Aniko, and the hardships they all went through during the Nazi persecution. It presents a detailed emotional torture that his entire family went through. The only other book I have ever read on the subject of anti-semetism was "The Diary Of Ann Frank" which was a compulsory read in my high school years. Their entire experience is very unreal to one unless one has gone through it oneself. To me especially it is a very outside experience...

   Too bad I didn't know of the addresses Dr. Rich mentions in his book when I went to Budapest over a year ago so I could have looked them up. If you want to read a touching book on a mother's struggles, fear and love for her family, and all that she is capable of, as well as Dr. Bob's own childhood horrors and struggles, then definitely this book is a must.


Anger and Anxiety: Be in charge of your emotions and control phobias

Dear Bob,

   I have just finished your book on Anger and Anxiety and it helped to reaffirmed certain practices, like cognitive therapy, that I have been practicing prior to reading your book. It was something I naturally picked up because I felt that I had to rationalize everything that goes on in my life. I kept this practice a secret because I didn't think other people had to go through these practices in order to feel sane throughout the day. However, after reading your book, I now know those practices don't make me "strange" person, but rather it is perfectly normal.

   To give you a brief history, I have been victimized as a child and as a result, suffered through similar problems illustrated in your book (i.e., Jill and Bob). I was bulimic and anorexic for most of my adolescence and young adult life, but am no longer plagued by it. Instead, I find that life gets better as the years go by because I have been better able to accept my past and realize that it doesn't have to have a control over my present. My problem in the past was that I thought I couldn’t change who I was since I couldn't change my past. Now I know how irrational it is to think this way. Thank you, Dr. Rich, for solidifying the belief that my life will continue to get better by incorporating several techniques indicated in your book into my daily life.

   I am a recent law school graduate trying to find employment. This process was difficult for me because I felt that I wouldn’t make a good attorney. However, now I can feel normal using the techniques laid out in your book (I used to feel embarrassed needing these exercises) to drive out irrational beliefs that can debilitate me from stepping forward before putting my foot in the water. I can’t say that I am not afraid of making mistakes, however I now realize that it is normal to make mistakes, that everyone makes them and that my intelligence is not measured by them. I feel fortunate to have come across your website and I no longer feel ashamed that my life will continue to be a work in progress. Thanks again!!!

Sincerely,
Nancy


Life as a black-and-white photo

by a friend

   I spent about a year of my life in a miserable situation. My partner was running afoul of Jim Barleycorn, our roommate had definite designs on my partner and didn't try to conceal it in any way, and I was still recovering from major surgery and had not the slightest inclination to try and fight in any of the wars erupting round me.

   The result of this domestic mayhem was that I had an actual, text-book nervous breakdown. A fascinating experience that I don't care to live through again. Long story short I got back on my feet. I noticed though that I had no interest in anything and I seemed to cry for no reason at all.

   I stopped by to see the MD and she suggested a few therapists and shrinks and sent me off to discuss the trouble. I spent 15 minutes talking to a psychiatrist. I answered his questions and at the end of the alotted time he told me I was depressed and put me on Zoloft.

   It took a few days for the stuff to kick in but when it did I found myself in a virtual dead zone. I wandered through life rather like an automaton. No highs. No lows. Just there. I felt like a black and white photo.

   I don't remember just what it was that kicked me in the ass but something did and I stopped taking the pills. After almost a year on them the withdrawal was something horrendous but there was no way I was going back to the quack that had prescribed them to me. The revolving door on the psychiatric community in Los Angeles it not one I'll walk through again anytime soon.

   A week or so after my self-inflicted heebie-jeebies the fog began to truly clear and I was able to take stock of the mess my life was.

   Was I depressed? Damned straight. My roommate had moved out, my lover was leaving me after 8 1/2 years to move in with a woman 10 years younger than I--and I was going to be alone in a 3 bedroom apartment in Van Nuys, CA with 2 cats and no way to pay the rent. But I was not clinically depressed. I was in a bad place with a lot of stress but medication was not what I required.

   A stiff drink and a good shag might have helped but at the time I didn't have the cash for the booze. So I wound up as (what I think of as) a victim of industrialized medicine. "Give her a pill and send her home. No time to find out what's really going on. I've got to tee of at 1 pm!"

   I hate those damned pills. I gained 35 pounds (that I'm just now starting to get off my bones) and lost almost a year of real life.

   I didn't write a blessed thing, I didn't read, I'd lie in bed and stare at the tube and have no idea what I was seeing...

   I must say it's nice to live again. If there's one bit of advice I can give to help any of you down the razor blade of life re: depression and drugs... if you can manage it, don't do the pills. Do ANYTHING else. Please. So help me, it's living death.

J


Social Phobia

   I received this email (I have removed the name):

   hi i would just like to ask if it would be possible if you could send me some brief information on hypnosis to treat social phobia. I am a teenager and would like to seek treatment because it has been affecting both my social and school life.

   It would be greatly appreciated if you could send me any possible hypnosis treatment information.

Thankyou


Dear x,

   

    The best way to fight back against social phobia is to find a group program for it, somewhere near you. These are very effective, and you will be able to work with other sufferers, supporting each other.

   Hypnotism could help you in two ways. First, it is the most powerful way to relax, and this relaxation can be induced at need through post-hypnotic suggestion. So, when you are in a trigger situation, you can suddenly become calm.

   Second, part of fighting social phobia is role plays. All acts of imagination are more vivid when you are in a trance, so role plays would be more effective.

   But also, there are things you can do, by yourself. Don't accept the lies social phobia tells you. Question them, and act on the evidence. You are suffering from the mistaken belief that other people watch you, waiting for you to make a fool of yourself (or some variety of this). They don't. They are too busy watching themselves. And if you did one of the things you are terrified might happen, they'd probably react with kindness, not destructive 'humor'.

Have a good life,
Bob


The Drug Pogrom

An essay by John Gorman

   President Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1972, and, a dozen years later, President Reagan followed, cheered on by nearly every official, high or petty, throughout the land. The first President Bush even ventured to promise victory in this campaign, President Clinton prosecuted this war with even greater vigor, and the current President urges us on to new efforts.

   Yet hardly anyone ventures to ask why this war has not long since been won. It has certainly cost enough. Is the mightiest nation on Earth unable to get the better of a few plants, pills and powders?

   The simple fact, however, is that the War on Drugs cannot be won, because it does not exist. This phrase is at best a shorthand for a ruthless and sanctimonious campaign against "drug users," ranging from the desperate heroin addict to the casual marijuana smoker and encompassing all of our fellow citizens who prefer "dangerous" drugs to the state-sponsored alcohol and tobacco. Worse yet, the correct historical parallel for this endless "war" is not armed conflict between nations or even civil strife, but state persecution of religious dissidents like the pogroms of Czarist Russia or the Inquisition of Imperial Spain.

   To make this point clear, let us imagine that a modern state has decided to suppress Unitarianism and compel everyone -- for his own good, of course -- to believe in the Holy Trinity. The initial stages of the persecution proceed smoothly. The clergy and other leaders of this now forbidden sect are soon rounded up and the gathering places of these heretics swiftly closed. Public obduracy guarantees martyrdom, and thousands of the formerly faithful hasten to recant their errors and denounce the unregenerate to the authorities. With the well earned penalties for their own Unitarianism now conveniently forgotten, some especially ardent penitents can even find employment as official "counselors" to those still tempted by the pernicious doctrines of Jefferson and Emerson.

   Yet, despite this initial success, a stubborn and resourceful underground springs up, where the devout continue to worship and even to attract converts among those disenchanted with orthodox creeds. As the moral bankruptcy of the established churches becomes ever more apparent, the number of these converts and their contributions, both material and spiritual, to the proscribed cult begin to increase alarmingly.

   Since conventional law enforcement, however draconian, has failed to halt these deviant devotees in their unsanctioned pursuit of salvation, the state, egged on by its orthodox clergy, adopts new tactics. Multitudes of informers are hastily recruited and lavishly rewarded. Thousands of agents are hired, outfitted with a superficial knowledge of the forbidden faith and sent out to tempt others into revealing their misbelief, perhaps by offering to buy or even to sell a Unitarian hymnal or pamphlet. Those apprehended can sometimes be tortured into giving away their co-religionists. But prompt cooperation leading to the capture of a minister or "king pin," as they have come to be called, can mitigate otherwise frightful penalties.

   When event these measures do not suffice, the state redoubles its efforts to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth and stamp out this "thought crime." Conversations must be constantly monitored to detect any reference to the outlawed creed. The homes of suspected heretics must be invaded swiftly and without warning, lest their destroy their seditious books before a search can uncover them. Indeed, the slightest hint of unorthodoxy justifies the closest surveillance, and privacy is only a fading memory. Even seemingly true believers must undergo random doctrinal examinations by the Thought Police to show they have not become tainted, and everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

   At this juncture, we may substitute "drugs" for Unitarianism, since it is every bit as difficult to demonstrate that our licit drugs are any less harmful than our illicit ones as it is to find an empirical proof for the existence of the Trinity. The attempt to legislate conformity in this totally subjective area has inexorably required law enforcement practices which are essentially those of an Inquisition operating in a police state.

   In closed societies like Iran, where dissidents must chose between the private torments of forced conversion and the public agonies of martyrdom, religious persecutions can have impressive short term results. In the West, where other options remain, such efforts are far more likely to bring us a deeply divided and corrupt nation, where the appearance of orthodoxy is everything, and intelligence, humanity and even common sense count for almost nothing.

   John Gorman is a freelance journalist based in Florida. He is a frequent contributor to 'bobbing around'.

   Responses to this (and other) articles are welcome and will be printed. However, if you disagree, keep your argument respectful, and aimed at the ideas, not the messenger.


Sizzling Summer Contest

   Bookswelove.net is becoming famous for its contest. A winner of the last one requested, and received, a copy of Anikó: The stranger who loved me. During May through August, they are running a 'sizzling summer contest'. Silly, isn't it, when on the RIGHT side of the world it's winter? :)

   Two free paperbacks will be given away monthly, ebook bonuses given away throughout the contest, and three final round prizes valued at $75.00, $50.00 and $25.00 can be grabbed at the end of the contest.

   Check it out at Bookswelove.net.


Read an e-book week

   'Read an e-book week' is the initiative of my Canadian friend, award-winning author Rita Toews. She sent me a reminder, which JUST failed to make it into the last issue. It is over for this year, but she'd like to remind you to bookmark the event for next year. The week has been set aside for you, the e-book author, to promote your work -- and e-books in general. Plan your event well in advance to get the best response on your publicity.


A response to 'I Love My Therapist'

from Cheryl O'Brien

Hi Bob.

I am writing in reponse to Becky's question and your answer to "I love my therapist". I am a long term counsellee and have had several therapists over a period of 18 years. I shan't go into the reasons for the need for counselling but shall respond only to the topic of 'loving therapists'. The only therapist I ever saw that I did not 'love' is one I only saw three times. When I first meet a therapist I find that my 'inner critic' fires on all cylinders and so I hesitate before deciding that therapist is not for me.

   The other several therapists I have seen I have loved. However I should for reasons of this debate define what I mean by love in a therapy relationship.

   Love in these counselling relationships means I have a deep respect and liking for the therapist. It also means I relate to them as a person in a warm way and I am able to build a relationship of trust with the counsellor.

   Love doesnt mean, for me, a dependence on them, but it does mean a reliance. I rely on my therapist to be able to squarely judge the reationship between me and them. I rely on the therapist to be honest in their feedback to me. I rely on the therapist to be available at the arranged appointment time, give or take ten minutes, unless it is humanly not possible.

   Love in a sexual sense has entered my therapy in two therapy relationships. However it entered only in my thoughts and feelings, as far as I know, and I believe that if a therapist did have reciprocal feelings in that sense I would expect that they would refer me to another therapist. I just don't want to mess up my therapy like that and to be frank I don't particularly want to pay in the range of $100 to be chatted up! I can get that for free at the pub!

   However I feel it is just as important that the counsellor can rely on me too. They rely on me to be honest about myself and have a willingness to work at the areas we are discussing and a willingness to look honestly at myself, my responses, and my thought and feeling patterns.. A counsellor should be able to rely on me to be available at the appointment time and to give reasonable notice (at leaast 24 hours, and more when possible) if I can not make an appointment.

    I have found in my therapy sessions example after example of love that is based on respect, love that is honest and questioning, love that is unique and by its very nature has a set of boundaries that make it safe and possible for me to question myself. This unique form of 'safe' love with its boundaries taught me a great deal about myself in relationship, it taught me what a safe relationship feels like.

   I should add that one year of training as a counsellor added a whole new understanding for me as a client. It added a whle new dimension of respect for my hard working counsellor and it also helped me to understand the special nature of a client-therapist relationship.

   I did decide not to continue my counselling training but was very grateful for the new understandings I had gained.

Just wanted to add my comments.
Kind Regards
Cheryl O'Brien.

   Cheryl O'Brien is the initiator and inspiration of the writers' email list Australia and the World Wordsmiths. She is a frequent contributor to 'bobbing around'.


News from my friends

Bobby Woodall
John Bailey
Rita Toews and Alex Domokos
Jim Chu
Jaden Katsuura
Dorothy Thompson

Bobby Woodall

Bob,

   I have won the First Internet Game to Fame and one of my prizes is an all expense paid trip to Hollywood. I am supposed to meet some influential literary agents. Please read about me at http://gametofame.net/profiles.asp?quserid=bobbyrobert

   Bobby is a writer of Westerns. He and I keep knocking into each other on various writers' email lists. All I can say to him is, 'Good luck, mate!'


John Bailey

   I'm happy to announce that my first novel, Boyne Falls Baroque, has just been released as an e-book by DiskUs Publishing. You can read an excerpt at http://www.boynefallsbaroque.com.


Rita Toews and Alex Domokos

   Alex Domokos and Rita Y. Toews are pleased to announce the release of their latest e-book, Masquerade.

Masquerade: noun -- a guise, a front, a pretext, a cover up.

   When undercover RCMP officer Stan Bolenko returns to his native Winnipeg to investigate organized crime, he finds he's not the only one involved in a masquerade. Most of the people he encounters have their own dark secrets, including Stan's childhood sweetheart, Anel.

   Does Anel know that the lab she works in is at the heart of the corruption? If she doesn't, why is her signature on false forensic reports being given to the police?

   Masquerade is available from Books Unbound E-Publishing.

   This novel has also been contracted with a Canadian print publisher for release in late 2005.


Jim Chu

Our Time on Earth is Running Out…

   The Simple Science of Being is not a doomsday book, but a book that can guide us to build a better world free of greed, inequality and hostility. Our time on earth is running out. Terrorism, war, pollution and depletion of natural resources are all leading us to the only destination possible: extinction. It is time for the human species either to wake up or to perish.

A natural thinker, Jim Chu has always been fascinated by human behaviors. After he graduated from UCLA with a Masters Degree in Computer Science and settled comfortably in Los Angeles, his life was suddenly turned upside-down. His wife, whom he loved dearly, unexpectedly asked for a divorce. Unable to cope with the sudden change of event, he desperately searched for answers. By chance, he was introduced to a training called Life Spring, and that started his journey of self-discovery. Since then, he participated with the est Training of Mr. Werner Erhard and the Landmark Forum for over twenty years.

The Simple Science of Being is a powerful tool that anyone can use to achieve incredible results effortlessly. Unlike the hundreds of popular self-improvement books, the Simple Science of Being does not suggest a list of things to do. Instead, it exposes the mechanism that drives us, and provides us with a powerful tool to create any results for ourselves. It can be applied to improve communication, increase personal effectiveness, solve problems and alter unbreakable habits. Ultimately, it can be used to create a better world for all of us who are willing. And we are running out of time.

This book is especially recommended to those who previously participated in courses such as Life Spring, Life Dynamics, AsiaWorks, est Training, the Landmark Forum or other similar trainings. While the book is not the same as any of those courses, it does provide a different perspective that can clear up a lot of questions for the participants, opening up new windows for them to continue to expand their awareness.

The book is available for sale at www.amazon.com and www.bn.com. For more information, contact Xlibris Corp.


Jaden Katsuura

Glimpses
ISBN 0-595-30896-1
276 pages, $20.95
Available from Ingram Book Group, Baker & Taylor, and from iUniverse, Inc.
To order call 1-877-823-9235

   Glimpses is the sneak peak into an individual's inner peace and contemplative turmoil. Newcomer Jaden Katsuura explores the opportunities of life, death, and our daily habits in clear poetic verse. In binding contemporary views with traditional methods, Katsuura has indeed reshaped the landscape to his very own demeanor. Glimpses provides an intimate look at how romance can embrace our lives to points of no return. Still reserving the rights to comb through our fears of death and see the real truth held in our own survival.


Dorothy Thompson

   Absolute Write has accepted Dorothy Thompson's PR article, "How to Become Your Own PR Consultant" for their May 12 newsletter and her personal essay, "Spiritual Earth Mothering: Finding My Sanctuary in a Sea of Brambles" will be published in the summer edition of the print magazine, Still Moments.


The Door Knob

   Whoever invented it surely didn't suffer from arthritis in the hands, and could no longer remember childhood.

   It takes considerable strength and effort to grip a door knob. Worst are the slippery metal ones, especially designed to make life difficult for wet hands.

   I remember, as a little boy, being imprisoned in an unlocked room. I was allowed to get out. I could reach the door knob. The trouble was, I couldn't turn it.

   But it's worse for the elderly, and others with pain or loss of strength in the hands. I have seen a once mighty old man use two wasted hands, wrestling to open the door. I am sure he wished for an axe to beat the door down, or dynamite to blow a new hole through the wall.

   It's not as if there was no alternative. The lever-type door handle has been around for a very long time too, and is far more human-friendly. Typically, the pressure of a finger is sufficient to activate it. Then, if the door swings toward you, just hook in a finger and pull. If it goes the other way, a mere push will get you through.

   The best designed door handles work when being moved either up or down. These can be nudged with an elbow while carrying a two-handed load like a tray-full of hot liquid.

   By no coincidence, regulations require fire exit doors to be equipped with lever-type handles, not knobs. I don't see why EVERY door isn't treated the same way.


Articles for Writers

by Shannah Biondine
Cheryl Wright

Genre Fiction: Freshness Alert
by Shannah Biondine

   I'm a former contest coordinator and serve as a volunteer judge for several competitions each year. The most recent contest I judged sent me five historical romance entries to score. Four out of the five contained a scene with the heroine either collapsing in a faint or being knocked unconscious in the opening chapter.

   This is what's known as a plot device, and if a contest judge sees the same one with such frequency, we can imagine acquisition editors must gnash their teeth in frustration.

   Fiction should be somewhat like gambling. Psychological studies with lab animals indicate that unpredictability inspires persistence. If a test subject is never rewarded for running a maze or pushing a lever, it quickly loses interest and stops performing the behavior. If the animal is consistently rewarded, the same thing happens. But if the reward comes sporadically, the animal will repeat the behavior again and again. In a broader sense, this is what keeps readers turning pages. Tension comes from uncertainty.

   The problem, of course, is that genre fiction must be predictable to some extent. It conforms to a formula or unfolds in an established milieu. Our challenge is to emulate what readers expect, yet still offer the element of surprise. Serve up another helping of the same, yet make it "different." Make it fresh. Here are a few suggestions to enhance originality in your works:

   Shannah is the author of several works of genre fiction. She's written traditional historical romances, paranormals, and two fantasy novellas. Shannah is published with LTDBooks, Double Dragon Publishing, and Whiskey Creek Press.

   She won the 2002 Eppie for Best Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and has seen her works final in the prestigious PRISM and Dream Realm Awards. A complete list of her available titles and review samplers can be found on her website: www.homestead.com/biondine. Readers may contact her at: biondine@authorsden.com.


So You Wanna Win a Contest?

by Cheryl Wright

   In the period May 2003 til December 2003 I entered seven writing contests. I short listed in five and placed second in two of those five.

   It was all a major shock to me. I always thought my writing was fairly mediocre; nothing special, and certainly nothing spectacular.

   It all began when my writing group ran a workshop called "Taking Risks with your Writing" about three years ago.

   Like most writers, I love to read. I still recall hiding under the covers with a torch (flashlight) most nights, and being roused out around midnight by my parents to get to sleep. But I usually read the same sort of books over and over. Nancy Drew was my favourite in those early years, then as I grew into my teenage years, Agatha Christie took over. These days, my absolute favourite author is Australian writer, Peter Corris.

   Are you beginning to see a pattern here? All these books are mysteries of one sort or another.

   So what, I hear you say.

   The point is, I mainly read one type of book.

   At the workshop we were encouraged to read genres we wouldn't normally read, and to write material we wouldn't normally write, or hadn't read that much. So that's exactly what I did.

   I read fantasy, comedy, sci-fi, suspense, crime, romantic suspense, romance. I even read some heavy 'literature'. And you know what? I liked them. In fact, I liked them so much that I decided to start writing across genres, to 'give myself permission' to write in a whole new way; to evoke a totally new voice, and to write what I liked to write, rather than what was expected.

   The next step I took was to analyse other successful writers' work. What was it they did that I didn't?

   Janet Evanovich's successful Stephanie Plum books were high on my hit list. So I read them, and read them, and read them. They were funny, they were pacy, and they were addictive.

   Finally, I had that long awaited 'ah-ha!' moment. It had to happen eventually; at long last, the little light bulb lit up.

   Janet Evanovich wrote what people didn't expect.

   Huh?

   I began a new journey. I turned my methods around; I began to spatter humour into my writing, to create larger than life characters, and I began to 'think outside the square'. When I wrote something ordinary, mundane, or expected, I would sit down and brainstorm better outcomes. I refused to write to formula and I always endeavoured to surprise the reader.

   I now have a unique voice, one that differs with everything I write. While I'm writing, as my plots unfold, one part of my brain is screaming 'be different, be unique!' as I type. And it works.

   Prior to that evocative workshop, it was intimated that I needed to have one voice, one style, and write in one genre.

   Well, too bad -- I don't, and I won't! As a new writer, other people placed many restrictions on me:

   "Romance is written to formula."

   "You can't combine romance with comedy."

   "Comedy and mystery just don't mix."

   "First person writing isn't acceptable these days."

   What a load of old rubbish!

   As a much more experienced writer, I put a hex on all this restrictive nonsense. It's a little like having steak and three veg for dinner every night; you quickly get sick of the same meal night after night. Well dear writers, your readers tire of the same ol' same ol' in every book they pick up.

   So what am I suggesting? Don't write to formula; don't write the same as the last writer, and the next writer, and the next...

   Use stunning first sentences, exploit strange and weird endings -- dare to be different; get your work published, win that contest, and earn that book contract.

   Cheryl Wright (also writing as Andrea Higgins-Wright) is an Australian author and freelance journalist. In addition to juggling an array of other projects, she writes a monthly travel column for a magazine in the US. Cheryl publishes "Writer to Writer" a monthly ezine for writers of fiction and non-fiction, and is the author of "Think Outside the Square: Writing Publishable (Short) Stories" - available in pdf version.
www.writer2writer.com/book.htm


Stories for your entertainment

David Hooper
Geoff Nelder

Outhouse Blues
by David Hooper

   I stood in grandma's outhouse, staring at that deep, dark hole. I had not gone to the bathroom for two days because my twelve-year old mind feared the spiders and snakes that might lurk inside. No one in my family had ever been bitten while sitting on that hole, but there is a first time for everything.

   "Mac! Hurry up! We're about to leave for home."

   Peering through a crack between the boards, I saw my mom on Grandma's back porch, hands on hips, and a scarf tied around her blonde hair.

   "I'm finished!" I lied.

   I felt uncomfortable, but my belly's occasional gurgle and dull ache didn't really bother me. The back screen door slammed and mom disappeared inside and I made my escape to the car.

   We said our goodbyes and for the next four to five hours, we'd meander back and forth over bumpy two-lane highways, and through towns that really didn't exist. There would be few opportunities to go to the bathroom. The open car windows provided little relief from the sweltering August heat bearing down on our '49 Chevrolet coup. I dozed off, but two hours later awakened to sharp needle-like pains in my stomach.

   I sat up just as the car hit a bump and a sickly gas smell quickly spread throughout the car.

   Mother fanned the air with a free hand. "Did you go at grandma's?"

   I hung my chin on my chest. "I want to go in a real bathroom!"

   But, I couldn't wait.

   Mom found an old abandoned filling station with an outhouse in back. She waited outside as I entered. Flies buzzed around my head and spider webs dotted every corner. An old catalog lay on the floor with pages missing. I carefully leaned over to inspect the hole and shivered. Suddenly, I realized that I could squat over the hole, and I wouldn't have to sit down. Why I hadn't thought of that before?

   Excited, I climbed up, straddled the hole, and as my jeans and underwear slid down my legs, I lost my balance. All attempts to catch myself failed. My legs flipped from under me, my body jackknifed, and the hole swallowed my butt.

   Arms braced, body trembling, but relieved, I wiggled and grunted, but my hips were stuck tight. I screamed for my mom to help me. I knew that any minute a spider would be nipping at my backside. Mom tried to pull me free, but I cried out in pain--or from fear. After some thought, Mom got a jar of petroleum jelly to smear on my skin.

   "Now, I'll push you down a little, and then I'll give a tug."

   I popped out like a cork in a bottle.

   Relieved, although half-naked, Mom handed me the catalog.

   "Finish the job, Mac."

   She left and I stared in disbelief at the weatherworn and dirt incrusted pages.

   Later, as our journey continued, my mom asked, "Did you learn your lesson, Mac?"

   "Yep. Next time I go to grandma's, I'm not going to eat."

   Don't have time to read a book any more? 'Monthly Short Stories' is ideal for you. Every month, you will receive a little booklet with two or three excellent stories (mine have been in there). The quality is high, because, as you can see from this little bit of fun, the editor, David Hooper, is a talented writer himself. Look up the details at http://www.monthlyshortstories.com


Open Bracket
by Geoff Nelder

   Geoff has a kind of hearing loss in which consonants get confused. He overheard a conversation about some celebrity called Owen Prachett. The result was this story.

   "Open bracket," his arrogant voice pierced her right ear.

   Her fingers automatically flew and tapped the keys while her brain worked on resigning at the end of the week.

   "As you were warned last month..." he droned on. She hit Pause. Well, he was warned last month too and the month before that. Below minimum wage indeed. If only she had the courage to use his affairs against him. The things she could tell his wife!

   "...oh, and Miss Eldridge..."

   Damn, she'll have to delete it. That's the trouble with dictaphones: her fingers assume it's all genuine verbatim when half of it is composed of gofor nonsense.

   "...Interflora for Sadie for um, whenever her birthday is this week -- look it up. The outstanding balance must be forthcom..." Damn, Pause again. Delete. City & Guilds doesn't prepare you for this. Decision made, she set up the dictaphone to take a message.

   "Dear Mr Cruick, you do not need a sensitive human being to do your letters. I've used the firm's stationery account to order IBM ViaVoice Deluxe for you. You can configure it to produce all your letters, organise your diary and most other office work. From the catering budget I've ordered you an auto-beverage and snack dispenser. The description on the Internet puts it almost on a par with the Star Trek replicator machine. Just as well because it costs as much as the Starship Enterprise. I used the hospitality account to send flowers with a note to Sadie on her birthday or did I send Isobel's flowers and note to Elaine, Elaine's perfume to Sadie and oh dear I might have mixed up the notes and gifts a little. Hope it's not important. Oh, and I quit. Sincerely, Agnes Eldridge."

   She put the machine on his desk with a cryptic note.

   "Close bracket."

   Funny, she thought, how the close bracket is an email smiley. :-)

   Geoff Nelder lives in Chester, UK as a self-employed freelance writer. When he taught he had several books and articles published on climate, teaching and IT. With a new focus on fiction he scribbles novels and is overexcited to be the lead writer for an experimental Internet TV sitcom. More can be found on http://geoffnelder.com.


Book Review

   Sandy Semerad sent me this review of her book Mardi Gravestone, which appeared in the Murder and Mayhem Book Club:

Title: Mardi Gravestone
Author: Sandy Semerad
Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc. www.wings-press.com
ISBN: 1590882741
Genre: Mystery
Number of pages: 300 Release Date: April 2004

   Don't forget to pack your costume for Mardi Gras as you begin the trip with Lilah Sanderford and her daughter, Angela. And don't get too close to the pickup traveling in front of you with the red-headed man riding in the bed.

   Lilah wasn't careful enough and when the collision occurred, she became involved in a bizarre case of murder, theft and politics.

   Mardi Gravestones is a delightfully complex story with many trails for you to follow. You will get to know a piano player named Jay and a large sized policeman named Billy Joe Harris who used to play football. There are also other characters whose motives and personalities will lure you page to page. You won't want to stop reading.

   Highly recommended as a truly fun read, one that any mystery lover will enjoy. The settings will delight your inner eye and remind you of the lost civilization of the old south. This very talented author, Sandy Semerad, offers us something original and fun.

Happy reading.
Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, Murder and Mayhem Book Club

   Learn more about author Sandy Semerad at www.sandysemerad.com


A little plug

   Sending Bobbing Around off used to be a big job. Now, it's a matter of visiting an online form, then sending a single email, thanks to Atlantic Bridge Publishers. The least I can do is to offer this forum to Linda Eberharter, the publisher, for publicising her publishing business. Please visit her and look around.


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