Bobbing Around

Volume Four, Number One
June, 2004

Bob Rich's rave
email me  other issues

*About Bobbing Around
  guidelines for contributions.
*There is always a contest here?
  The right to die.
  Youth suicide -- Why?
*This may interest you:
  Number 1 bestseller.
  New romantic suspense.
  A crime thriller.
  Celebrity author's praise for a kids' fantasy.
  Third 'Have No Mercy' book.
  A contest for writers.
  Will this author get burned at the stake?
*For Writers:
  Finding your own typos.
  The complexities of writing simply.
  Managing points of view.
  Driving downhill.
*Book review:
  The Bean Patch.
*Short story:
  Three Times a Hero by JamesChoron
  A poem by Kath Austin.
*Thank You, Atlantic Bridge.
I'm delighted to announce:
   Striking Back From Down Under has been reissued by the excellent independent publisher Twilight Times Books. The book is now available from their web site, and will soon be up at Fictionwise.
   If sufficient sales are made to indicate potential, 'Striking Back' will be promoted to the paperback list. So, if you haven't read it yet, or need a present for a friend, please consider buying my short story collection. Email me with a copy of proof of purchase, and as with all of my books, you will receive one of my other titles for free.
   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.

There is always a contest here?

   I am a member of As a result of this, almost every day I get a few emails notifying me that some people have left me a message in my 'guest book' there.

   Why do they leave me messages? Because there is one competition after another, and these involve a requirement for contestants to visit many web pages and do something there. Usually, they need to sign the guest book as part of this.

   The result for contestants: some of them win attractive prizes, including copies of books from member writers. All those who visit me also get a short story as a 'thank you' for having done so.

   The result for me: an ever-increasing number of people who discover my writing.

   If you want to become acquainted with excellent writers in the genres of your choice, you can't go past this web site. And if you have books to publicize, this is a good place to do it.

The Right to Die

   Our society has a phobia about death. We avoid talking about it. A grieving person is often punished by isolation: people will avoid the sufferer, because 'I don't know what to say.' The medical profession often goes to ridiculous lengths to prolong a miserable, painful life. People have gone to jail for helping a loved one in extreme pain to go a little earlier. And I have nursed several so-called survivors of suicide, who were given 'heroic' assistance that left them brain-damaged living vegetables.

   And yet… deny it as much as you like, put it off, but all of us will die, sooner or later.

   I think there are higher priorities than length of life.

   Quality of life is one. Certainly, a person suffering intractable pain, and in the grip of a progressive, fatal illness, should have the choice. But this is not my current concern.

   All my life, I have taken pride in my intelligence. My motto has been, 'If someone else can do it, I can learn it.' And I could.

   But suppose that I noticed my mind slipping. Suppose that insidiously, slowly, my memory, reasoning ability, general intelligence started to slip towards imbecility. This tragedy does happen to many people, and the risk is there for all of us who live long enough.

   I think I would put my affairs in order, say good-bye to my loved ones, and quietly pass over to that next adventure, the mystery on the other side.

   Whether you agree or not, I would like to have your opinion.


Driving downhill

   You can see the craziest feature of a car when it is going down a hill, or coming to a stop. While the driver is applying the brake, the engine continues to run, forcing the wheels forward.

   Stupid, isn't it? You are burning up brake rubber because the engine must continue to idle.

   Of course, this idiocy only applies to the internal combustion engine. Other options are now starting to emerge.

   Electric motors can start up without an external motive force. So, electric cars don't need to idle. What's more, when a power supply is withdrawn from an electric motor, and instead a mechanical force turns it, we have a generator. Power withdrawn from the motor-cum-generator slows its rate of turn.

   Modern trains use this fact in regenerative braking. When the driver wants to slow or stop the train, he converts the motor into an alternator, putting power back into the grid as a form of braking. This greatly reduces wear on the brake shoes, increases safety and saves power.

   Honda's revolutionary 'hybrid car' does the same.

   There is also a new concept: a French prototype that uses compressed air to power a car. I don't know if a push on the brake pedal activates an air compressor, but at least there is no need for a forward driving force while the brakes are being used.

   I like cheating. I drive an old car which has an internal combustion engine like almost every other. All the same, I burn no fuel while my intent is to slow. Rarely do my engine and my brakes work against each other.

   How do I do it? I have installed a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) system, while retaining the petrol (gasoline for Americans) fuel system as well. There is a switch with three settings: up for LPG, down for petrol -- and horizontal for 'off': no fuel.

   So, when I am going down a hill, or approaching a red light, I flick the switch to 'off'. The drag of the engine actually assists (or even replaces) the brakes in slowing the car.

   How much would it take to have such a feature standard in all cars, regardless of the fuel used? It could even be automated: fuel off but brakes not engaged while your foot touches the brake pedal, a little more push to actually start braking.

Youth Suicide -- Why?

   What can be more tragic than suicide by a young person?

   I am waiting for a new client to arrive. She is 22, and yesterday came very close to killing herself. She has an obviously caring family, lives with her boyfriend next door to her parents, has a job… on the surface, a perfectly acceptable, potentially happy existence.

   Not having met her yet, I don't know the private, inner reasons that drove her to ultimate despair. And if her action were an oddity, that's where my concern would stop.

   Unfortunately, her action is not an oddity. There is a publicly acknowledged epidemic of youth suicide in the wealthy countries. This includes Japan and the United States, Europe, as well as my country, Australia.

   We don't hear about an epidemic of youth suicide in the poor countries of the world.

   Each suffering person has private, individual, unique reasons. When this young lady arrives, she and I will explore hers. But when widely differing people in widely differing circumstances do much the same thing for widely differing reasons… You see what I mean?

   There is an underlying pattern. The tragedies are individual. The cause is societal.

   In every case I have encountered, underneath the private reasons, there is a feeling of meaninglessness, a void left by the lack of rules, expectations, structure.

   Some fortunate people generate their own meaning. Most individuals need it to be defined for them.

   In poor countries, the meaning of life is survival. And, interestingly, visitors to some of the most desolately poor areas of the world are surprised to see smiling faces and happy if struggling communities.

   Previous generations had too much structure, too little freedom. Religion, while providing support, also was a form of judgment. People were expected to conform to the roles imposed upon them, and rebellion against expectations was costly.

   Too little freedom has been replaced by too much. Now, unless you are one of the lucky few, life can lack meaning and purpose. And when you feel bad about yourself, when the stresses cumulate, the blinkers can come on and make it all seem too bleak to survive.

This May Interest You

Number 1 bestseller.
New romantic suspense.
A crime thriller.
Celebrity author's praise for a kids' fantasy.
Third 'Have No Mercy' book.
A contest for writers.
Will this author get burned at the stake?

Darrell Bain

Hi Bob--

   Just a quick brag. My newest release A STRANGE VALLEY is currently the number one bestseller in all of and a best seller at It is getting really high ratings from readers, too. I don't know exactly what I did right, but it sure is working!

Darrell Bain
Author of The Pet Plague, The Sex Gates, The Disappearing Girls, Life On Santa Claus Lane, and others.
See all my books at

Lea Tassie

   Lea Tassie and Kathleen Webb (an award-winning romance author) are pleased to announce the release of their romantic suspense, ASHES, on June 1, 2004. Here is the back page blurb:


   Lt. Matt Nicols, head of San Francisco's arson squad, is baffled by a string of seemingly pointless fires in which two people have died. He doesn't need the added pressure of hotshot specialist arson investigator Erica Johnson dogging his every step. Erica only wants to do her job, with or without the cooperation of the grouchy Lt. Nicols. What she doesn't count on is the way sparks flare between her and Matt, generating a different type of fire. Or the long-past deadly secrets their investigation will uncover.

   ASHES is available in ebook or trade paper format from Treeside Press, or through Lea's website .

   Lea Tassie won Storyteller's 1999 Great Canadian Short Story contest and her suspense novel, Tour Into Danger, was published in July, 2003. Kathleen Webb has published nine romance novels, many into foreign translations. Both authors live in sunny southern British Columbia.

Betty Sullivan La Pierre


   Go to Betty's site.

   ‘DIAMONDS aren’t FOREVER’ is Betty Sullivan La Pierre’s sequel within a series. Jamey Louise Schyler, the knockout blonde who eluded Hawkman in ‘DIRTY DIAMONDS’, returns in this new adventure.

   When Hawkman's old friend Charley Sullivan tries to buy Jamey's house, trouble develops over the title. Jamey is forced to return to Medford, Oregon to clear the encumbrance.

   Once again this woman enters Hawkman’s life, but their roles take on an unexpected twist. Carl Hopkins, the man who spent a year in prison for Jamey’s dirty deeds, arrives on the scene. Hawkman finds himself caught in the middle of these two people’s vindictive relationship. Now, keeping Jamey alive becomes his priority.

Marilyn Peake

   Piers Anthony (author of the ADEPT series, the INCARNATIONS OF IMMORTALITY series, the XANTH series, and so much more) wrote the following about THE FISHERMAN'S SON by Marilyn Peake:

   "Now I have read THE FISHERMAN'S SON. This is a nice children's fantasy, grounded in realism. Even the fantastic element is realistic, in that the dolphin doesn't abridge the rules just for convenience; the right introduction has to be made. It's not all right to make the excuse 'I lost the cup because of a bear.'"

   The paperback version of THE FISHERMAN'S SON is available at and at The electronic versions are available at and To learn more about this book and its sequel, visit the author's website at: or

Kam Ruble

   Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the editing assistance in my new book. If you didn't live out of the US, I would send you a complimentary copy to show you how much I appreciate you. *~) Sadly, my finances won't allow the expensive postage the U.S. Postal Service charges. However, I do have your name listed as one of my contributing editors.

   Just released by Global Authors Publications, "Black Lily: Have No Mercy III" by Kam Ruble. "Black Lily" is the third novel in the Have No Mercy mystery series. For more information, or to read the first chapter, go to

   I might add, Kam's book is high on tension and action.

Cheryl Wright

Writer2Writer No Fee Contest:

   The new Writer2Writer contest has begun!

   There is no fee to enter, but you must be subscribed to our *free* ezine "Writer to Writer". If you're not already subscribed, you can sign up on the website or send a blank email to:

   Take a look at the photograph shown here:

   Your assignment is to write the opening line and one paragraph (maximum 107 words) plus a snazzy title. (Title will not be included in the word count) It can be the beginning of a short story or novel, or if you'd rather, may be a complete story.

   Entries will be judged solely on creativity. There are absolutely no limitations on genre; write whatever the photograph portrays to you.

   Closing date for entries: 12 midnight, 15th August 2004 (wherever in the world you live).

   Full details and rules can be found on the contest page Please check these carefully, as they will change for each contest. If you have any questions after checking the guidelines, feel free to contact Cheryl Wright.

   Under no circumstances will attachments be opened.

   Please note: Contests are ongoing; check back often.

Darrell Bain again

   Here is the title and foreword of my next book, already up at Double Dragon and scheduled for release at July 5th. Deron tells me that it will be either a national best seller and/or I will get burned at the stake, probably both! (and you may use the quote). I believe I yanked the chain of every politically sensitive subject possible.

By Darrell Bain


   This book is a good example of what comes from mixing politics and beer. It resulted from a night of comradery and debauchery with my brothers. Sometime during the festivities, one of us thought up the idea of what might happen should a real, though intelligent, Redneck ever get to the White House. We all laughed like crazy at the prospect and had great fun discussing various scenarios and situations. Perhaps we also vented some of our frustration at the labyrinthine entanglements of our present political process and how it works or doesn’t work. At any rate, once I sobered up, I thought the idea might make a good book.

   Eventually I did write the novel, and during the process tried to stay relatively true to how I think good ol unreformed Joe Sixpack might react to suddenly becoming president of these United States. I sincerely hope that in doing so I have not offended any of my readers. Trust me when I say that this was written purely for fun and not intended to cast aspersions on any person’s sex, age, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, color, ethnicity or any other characteristic I may not have listed here. I also sincerely hope you can laugh with me as you read. Sometimes that’s the only way to keep from crying.

   One more note: I have no political affiliation and belong to no political party. Bill Clinton got parodied simply because he was in office at the time this book was written, and because however great or not great he may have been as president, he was and is a wonderful public figure for poking fun at. If he and Hilary ever read this, I hope it gives him a chuckle or two, and I hope they remember the lawyer’s old axiom: never sue a poor person.

For Writers

Finding your own typos
The complexities of writing simply
Managing points of view.

Finding Your Own Typos

   One of the most difficult things is to find your own finger stumbles. Two spaces between words... a missing quote or apostrophe... two periods instead of one... a very slightly mis-spelled word... such things are easy to spot in someone else's writing. You can read your own work a dozen times, and still skate right over them.

   Try these techniques, and see if they work for you:

1. Read it aloud. I'll occasionally do this even for a passage in a book I am editing. It brings out all sorts of little problems, like long, awkward sentences, a flat, boring sound, repetitions, and so on. More relevant here, you are less likely to skim over the text, and this helps to pick up the typos.

2. Change the format. Now, I am a strong conservationist, and don't approve of wasting paper. Some writers print out endless copies of work in progress, and I think this is wrong. But the final copy may be reasonable. (Even then, I use the back of paper with printing already on one side -- I collect every scrap. And I print single-spaced, unless it's a submision and double spacing is specified.) The format can be changed in many other ways. For example, if you have the software, save the word processor output as html and look at it through your web browser. You can give it a nice background color and all. In my case, all my books are available as e-books, and I do the code myself. It's amazing how many typos I pick up while doing this, and yet I'd checked and checked before starting the conversion. Or you can zoom in, and/or change the font face.

3. This is a good trick when you are sent the 'galley proof'. Nowadays that's usually a PDF file, but could be paper. Read the text, but completely divorce yourself from the meaning. Have you ever heard little kids chanting poetry? Again, the change in approach will uncover several typos. There is no reason you can't do this before submitting your work for publication as well.

   By the way, there is ONE typo in this little article. See if you can spot it.

The Complexities of Writing Simply

   K.I.S.S. is the motto of the Australian Army Engineers. It stands for 'Keep It Simple, Stupid!'

   I apply it in all areas of my life, at least when I remember: building, house design, organizing my day -- and writing. It is one of the hardest skills to learn and practice. :)

   Years ago, I did a project: re-read many of my favorite books, focusing on the language. This was difficult, because the story and characters kept distracting me, but I found the following commonalities:

1. Simple syntax. This doesn't mean machine gun language. Sentence length could and did vary. But I could understand each sentence at first reading, and never got pulled up short by 'Huh? What was that again?' I don't know if I can define simple syntax, except as the relative absence of certain language forms:

2. Language matched content. Use short, staccato sentences in action. Use long, slow, meandering expressions woven through with subtle word images when the character in your story is in a thoughtful, imaginative mood. I think this aspect of writing is what distinguishes true art from mere craft. My books started to win prizes when I deliberately paid attention to the lyrics of language; with the realization that all prose is poetry. This is a difficult skill that comes with practice, and through studying the work of writers who do it well. Um… I do have quite a few e-books for sale. :)

3. Expressions were subtly fresh. As a writer, you are supposed to be creative. So, don't use clichés, which were some past person's brilliancy, but make up your own. However, the key word is 'subtly'. The turn of phrase should not stand out, but enhance the meaning.


   I also picked up a few Literary Masterpieces the experts raved about, but I'd been unable to finish. I still couldn't be bothered to finish them on the second attempt, but they were instructive. To explain what I found, think about jazz. There are two kinds. Traditional jazz has great rhythm, a seductive melodic line, smooth orchestration, and improvisations that enhance the whole rather than attracting attention away from it. Writing this, I think of Satchmo and Fats Domino. But there is another kind of sound called 'jazz'. This is showing off: 'Listen, I can play faster than you!' There is no inducement to toe-tapping. There is no melody you can get hold of. It's auditory gymnastics.

   Jaded literati approve of writing like this. The content can be immaterial. Even if it's great, the language attracts attention away from it. OK, if you want to have a chance at winning major literary prizes and ensure that no-one reads your books, use your turns of phrase to show off. It's a legitimate exercise. But when I write, it's because I have something to say. I want to write like Satchmo blows.

   Having said all this, there is yet one more trap. This is to carefully obey all the 'rules'. You will produce something dead, flat, uninspiring. A tract of writing composed of sentences that are all active voice, with simple syntax, and all the rest, will lack interest. You need the odd complication, in the right place of course.

   Sorry I can't give you a recipe for brilliant writing. But then, if such a recipe existed, everyone could apply it and it would stop being art. It would become commonplace, and therefore new conventions would arise for exceptional writing. And here I've broken one of my own rules. I think that repeating the word 'writing' here emphasizes the content.

PS I wrote this little article in Word. I then copied it into my text processor so I could convert it to html. Reading it here, I found three typos, and changed several words to improve the sound. This is further evidence for the previous article.

Managing Points of View

   A correspondent posted this question to one of the writers' email lists I belong to:

   I have a question. When writing fiction novels it seems to be the norm to have a few separate character POVs intertwining throughout the story as opposed to limiting the POV to just the main character. Can anyone advise of the best method to achieve this -- is it better to write the separate characters' stories first, then intertwine them, or write scene by scene switching viewpoint as you go?

   You're not going to like this answer... there is no set way. Every craftsperson works differently. I got the message once when I was using a rasp file on a bit of woodcarving. A fellow said, 'That's not the proper way to carve!' But this was in the presence of my friend Hans, who is an exceptional craftsman in wood. He said, 'What matters is the final result. How he got there is his business.'

   Same in writing.

   Also, what works at one stage in your skill development will become unnecessary later. I used to meticulously construct a plot, then create flesh on this skeleton. Now, all my stories, to some extent even non-fiction, grow organically.

   If your planned story is at all complex, it is a good idea to write a brief sketch of each character. Then construct a plot describing what happens to them, and their interactions. Then start writing, only NOT from the beginning. Write the easy parts first. I edit so many books that start lame and flat, then come alive later. So, write the first chapter when you are well into the story.

   By the way, there is no 'norm' about having to have several POVs. One can be fine. Many can be equally good. I have read several excellent books (one of the newer Faye Kellermans is like this) where one character is in first person, the others in third person when they are the witnesses. So, there are no hard and fast rules, only soft and slow fashions.

From Russia With Empaty

Three Times a Hero
by James Choron

   I guess everyone who was there on the barricade in August of 1991 remembers Vanya. That was all the name that we knew. I don't think anyone knows his last name, or if anyone ever did know it. Vanya was a "bombzh", a homeless person. He was an Afghanistan veteran, and an alcoholic -- one of those people that we all see, but seldom pay attention to. On a good day, you could smell him a good two hundred yards: a combination of cheap vodka, cheaper cigarettes and the fact that he slept in the Beloruski Train Station to keep warm, and hadn't had a bath in a few weeks. He lost both legs on a land mine, back in the early 80s I guess. He was just one example of how the Yeltsin (mis)administration robbed from the poor to feed the rich.

   Anyway, he sat, every day, in the Pushkin Square metro (subway) station, on a little wheeled cart, rather like a mechanic's dolley, that he could push along with his hands, played his garmosha (the Russian word for an accordion) and sold magazines and other little items to try and make an honest living, and, frankly, to buy the next bottle that would help him dull the pain of his missing legs, and the life that had been stolen from him by a senseless war. Because he was a decorated veteran, and sometimes wore his ribbons, the local metro cops would help him down the stairs every morning. and in the evening, when his "shift" was over, they'd carry him and his little cart back up the thirty-odd feet of steps to the street again. Now, like I said, where Vanya usually sat was about 30 feet underground, and was about as safe as you could be, considering what was going on at the time, on the surface. As an invalid, no one would question him, if the thing failed, and they lined the rest of us up and shot us as we fully expected. Aside from that, he was a "bombzh". Nobody even noticed him being around, most of the time, except for, as I said, his "aroma", and the music from his "Stomach Steinway".

   But. The day the Revolt began. It was all different.

   Vanya showed up at his regular time, but this time, he was different. He was wearing his old uniform, at least from, the waist up, and it was bloody perfect. God help me, he was wearing a Hero of the Soviet Union medal and an Order of Lenin, the two highest medals that this country had to give at the time, a blue paratrooper's beret and the silver wings of a Parachute Infantry "Instructor". He was completely sober, shaven and clean. and had his garmosha with him. Instead of asking Maslov, the cop, to help him down the stairs, into the subway, as usual, he had him help him up the barricade.

   Vanya sat there for three days on his little cart, right out in the open for all the world to see. And he played for us, and loaded magazines, and rolled bandages, anything that a man without legs below the thighs could do. I'll never in my life forget standing there in the night, looking out into the darkness, beyond the light of the burning torches, at a scene straight out of my grandfather's time and listening to "Katyusha", and "Budionka" and "Moskva Moya", and a dozen others from half a lifetime and more, ago, played by a man with no legs, who was doing all that he possibly could for the sake of the "cause", and for what he saw as a fight for freedom.

   He sat there day and night, never moving, right out in the open. If he slept at all, I don't think it was more than a few minutes at a time. It couldn' t have been, because the music was always there in the background, just beyond the reach of consciousness. People would come up to him, give him a drink or something to eat, and ask him to play some old "favorite". I think he must have known every song ever written, or at least every song written for the last fifty years or so. He knew my favorite, "Lili Marleen", and would start playing it every time he saw me.

   When it was all over, Vanya went right back to what he had always done, and very few people knew or ever will know what the legless "bombzh" in the Pushkin Square Subway Station did. He wanted it that way. But there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't have a fresh bottle, or plenty of cigarettes, and there wasn't a day that he didn't have some "unknown" person leave him lunch in a brown paper bag. He always sold all of his papers.

   Vanya was killed in August 2000, almost nine years to the day from those terrible but wonderful days in 1991, when he made his statement for all the world to see and hear. It was then that a pair of well placed terrorist bombs exploded in the Pushkin Square Subway Station, right at peak traffic time, six in the evening. It made world news. But nobody mentioned Vanya in the news. He was just another "nameless bombzh". But those of us who knew him take turns, and leave a rose on the spot where he always sat, every day. And. I'll tell you something else. For those of us who knew him, there's a special hate, a deep hate, one that will burn forever in the deepest parts of our souls for the so-called "freedom fighters" who murdered a true hero in cold blood, a man who, in spite of being a legless cripple, did more than his part to really fight for freedom... when it really mattered...

   Vanya the bombzh was three times a hero."

   James L. Choron is a journalist and writer living in Mamontovka, a suburb of Moscow, Russia. He has resided in the Russian Federation for over sixteen years, and is a former senior executive with the Eastman Kodak Company. He is currently owner and Chief Executive Officer of Old Guard Productions, a company dealing in motion picture and television logistics and properties, and American Business Training.


A poem by Kath Austin

Book Review

The Bean Patch
by Shirley Painter

Flamingo (Harper Collins) Australia.
ISBN 0-7322-7421-4

   I've recently read an incredible book: The Bean Patch by Shirley Painter. The writer was 83 when the book was published, and a few weeks ago I heard her speak about it. We exchanged books with each other.

   The book is her autobiography, slightly fictionalized (names changed is about all). While her father was fighting in the second world war, missing presumed dead, mother was consoled by his brother. The result was Shirley.

   So, when father came home after all, Shirley was not exactly his favorite. In fact, he tossed her out of bed and she, little baby, suffered a depressed skull fracture. And that was only the start...

   In one way, this is a horrendous story. But it is gripping, and in the end, uplifting.

   Expect to be completely captivated if you start to read it.

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.

About Bobbing Around

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Contributions are welcome, although I reserve the right to decline anything, or to request changes before acceptance. Welcome are:

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Submission Guidelines

   It is a FALSE RUMOUR that you need to buy one of my books before your submission is accepted. Not that I cry when someone does so.

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