Bobbing Around

Volume Four, Number Seven
April, 2005

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

 
*About Bobbing Around
  subscribe/unsubscribe.
  guidelines for contributions
*We Are All Tibetans
  Brandon Wilson sounds the alarm.
*Bob Norris on war
*Huge demonstration in Baghdad
*Counselling
  How Long Should Therapy Last?
  Rebellious teenager
*Jamie Blyth on fighting anxiety
*Reality is in the Eye of the Beholder...
*Good Buys
  Honours and publications for Carolyn Howard-Johnson
  Mike Kechula's new anthology.
  Cynthianna Appel makes the world smile for charity.
  6 authors raise money for education.
  Katie McKy about the Phart Phenomenon.
  Andromeda Spaceways newsletter is out.
  Book marketing from A to Z.
  A FREE contest with many prizes.
*Ergonomics: the shirt pocket.
*Writing
  What happened to the novel as an art form?
  by J. Conrad Guest
  Carolyn Howard-Johnson on book promotion.
  Sally Odgers on her long history of writing.
*Lynne Connolly on electronic publishing.
*Reviews:
  Susie Hawes reviews Striking Back From Down Under
  Susan Stephenson reviews Ann Durand's A Promise to Keep
  Mayra Calvani reviews Darrell Bain's Strange Valley
*Sergeant Ryker, a true story by James Choron.
*Bob Farley: a slight correction.

   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.

BAXTER is Australia's own concentration camp. A national protest was organised there over the Easter weekend. I went. Having been a refugee myself, I am outraged at my government's treatment of asylum seekers.

   Predictably, the media completely misreported the event. If you watched it on the idiot box, you must have formed an impression of feral fools attacking police. And it was nothing like that.

   If you want to find out about the real story, read the May 2005 issue of Earth Garden magazine. There, you will be able to read my account of what had really happened. Also, unlike the media reports, I'll tell you why.


Order your autographed copy of the Earth Garden Building Book, 4th edition, now.

Cancer: A personal challenge

   My self-help cancer book is completed. It is intended to be for people with cancer, for those who care for them, for those who love someone with cancer, and for those who want to prevent the disease from striking. I have contributions from a dozen wonderful writers, and my own input. We have approached a famous person to write a Foreword. As soon as he responds, we'll have the book available in electronic format, and soon after as a paperback through Booksurge.

   I am now accepting advance orders. Price will be as cheap as we can make it, since we feel that this book will offer help and solace to many people.

   Email me to be one of the first buyers. As with all my books, purchasers anywhere earn the right to a free copy of any other electronic title, and I can send you a signed book plate if you buy the paper copy.


   A wiser man than I said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." I am aware that, in the United States, and therefore also in my copycat country, civil liberties are being eroded away at an alarming rate. Are you going to stand for it?

We Are All Tibetans

by Brandon Wilson

Aloha Bob: Hope you're doing well. Here's a little letter to the editor that I just sent out. It might interest your readers as well.

   On this the anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day (March 10), it is particularly important that we remember and join in brotherhood with the six million Tibetans who are still without sovereignty; who still suffer under the brutal oppression of the Communist Chinese.

   Over the past five decades, since China's bloody occupation in 1950, Tibet has experienced turbulent changes, bringing it to the brink of extinction. Although not an Iraq or Afghanistan, the crisis is just as severe; the suffering just as real. Having spent time walking across Tibet, we witnessed it ourselves.

   The Communist Chinese have killed over 1.2 million Tibetans. There are hundreds are political prisoners who are routinely tortured. Freedom of speech and the press is long gone.

   Freedom of religion is corrupt. Over 6,000 Tibetan temples have been destroyed; tens of thousands of monks or nuns were killed or sent to concentration camps. Remaining lamaseries limit monk recruits to those who "love the Communist Party." Tibetan public schools teach only in Chinese, however most villages have no schools, electricity or running water. Tibetan infant mortality is extremely high.

   China's logging denudes Tibet's forests. Their mining rapes the land in Tibet. Its hills now may contain nuclear weapons.

   Perhaps worst of all, China are flooding Tibet with the resettlement of Han Chinese, creating a disintegration of traditional Tibetan values, culture and way of life. Bars, prostitutes and soldiers now blanket the holy city of Lhasa.

   With the completion of the railway lines extending from Beijing to the capitol in 2007, the Tibetan will soon be a stranger in their own land. The "assimilation" and cultural genocide will be nearly complete.

    Meanwhile, China's waging an active campaign to correct world opinion about Tibetan repression by calling it "progress" and promoting tourism in its new Lhasa "theme park."

    For the most part, America has been silent. We have made the sale of soft drinks and hamburgers a priority over human rights. In granting China "most favored nation" trade status--worth billions of dollars to them--we have allowed our stores to be flooded with cheap Chinese products--and thrown hard-working American workers out of their jobs. Finally, by selling China billions of dollars of US Treasury bonds, we have made the world's largest Communist country and violator of human rights, our "friendly" banker.

    If we as Americans truly believe in fighting for democracy and vanquishing the "evil doers" of the world, how can we turn our backs on Tibet, as one of the world's oldest, most peaceful, and more spiritual societies is destroyed?

   As people of Hawai'i, we, if anyone, must understand the pain of seeing our language, culture, religion and way of life destroyed--while all the world looks away.

   What can we do? Those who cherish freedom and self-determination must write, phone or email Congress today. Support groups like The International Campaign for Tibet and Amnesty International, learn more about Tibet on the Internet (http://www.yakbutterblues.com/tibetandpeacelinks.html), boycott Chinese goods, protest the upcoming Chinese Olympics, demand that the young Panchen Lama (kidnapped by the Chinese at the age of six) be released, educate our children.

   For today, we are all Tibetans. And no man is free–until all men are free.

Brandon Wilson
author Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith
www.YakButterBlues.com


Bob Norris on War

Dear Bob,

   I want to say thank you for including the articles by Bob Nichols, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, and Dave Mack in the recent issue of Bobbing Around. As a conscientious objector who was court-martialed and spent time in a military brig during the Vietnam War, I am deeply concerned about the course of American foreign policy since 9/11, and the dangers of depleted uranium. If things continue the way they have, I fear the next few years could make the Sixties look like a cakewalk. I am encouraged, however, to see the issue of conscientious objection has not died. For a detailed explanation of my thoughts, see my article "Where Have All the CO Soldiers Gone?" In the hope of giving this new generation an alternative point of view, I've also brought back to life my two out-of-print CO books Looking for the Summer and The Many Roads to Japan. They're available at http://www.lulu.com/robertnorris, as well as Amazon.com and other online bookstores. Thanks again and keep up the fine work.

Yours, Robert W. Norris


huge demo in Baghdad Three hundred thousand people are estimated to have taken part in this peaceful but angry protest. Have you seen any mention of it in the media? Why not?

   Ordinay Iraqis don't want us there. Come to think of it, why ARE we there?

   The excuses for attacking Saddam Hussein have been proven to be lies. The invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned by the UN, and there had been no provocation by Iraq for ten years. So, this was an illegal war.

   Anyway,Saddam is long gone. It seems obvious that Iraqis don't want us there. Who does, then? Whose interesest are served by exposing the young people of our armed forces to the dangers and stresses of being invaders in an occupied country?


Counselling

How Long Should Therapy Last?
Rebellious Teenager

How Long Should Therapy Last?

   One way I provide a public service and at the same time advertise my email therapy is to be part of a free bulletin board. People unable to cope with some problem can post a query at Queendom.com. A group of therapists volunteer to answer at least two per month. Of course, there are always hundreds more questions than answers, so only a lucky few can be helped.

   Each month, I go to the right file, and look at a few questions until I find a couple that I feel to be particularly in need of an answer.

   The last one was from a young lady. About a year ago, she was suicidal, and has been in therapy since. She'd been feeling depressed a lot longer of course.

   She is still so depressed that she writes: 'I've been seeing her for almost a year now and we are making no progress. I barely even talk to her. She sent me to a psychaitrist so I could get medication to help me open up. That wasn't really working so I stopped taking it... There are times where I think that being happy is over rated and I don't know even if I wantto get better anymore. A part of me does but then another part doesn't. I guess I kind of like being depreesed in a way but I don't but I also do if that makes any sense. I've just been like this for so long its conforting and if I was any different I wouldn't know who I am not like I know that now but it doesn't matter.'

 

   Here is my answer to her:

Dear K,

   I can hear your concern about a number of issues: you've been miserable for a long time; after going to therapy for a year, you can still only see a little bit of improvement; and most of all, you are confused, don't know where you are. Unstated, but there behind your words, you don't know what the future holds. You are probably afraid that the rest of your life will all be like this.

   Let me address this last issue first. The answer is no. When I was your age, I was terribly depressed too. I don't know what age it started, maybe at 7. I conquered my depression when I was about 24. Since, then, I've done a lot of good things with my life, and the reason I am a psychologist is that I want to help others, people like you, to conquer their problems too.

   There are many thousands of other people too, who have beaten depression. If we can, so can you.

   If I were your therapist, I'd long ago have either referred you on to someone else, or changed whatever approach I was using. Research shows that certain techniques can help a person to overcome major depression in approximately 8 sessions (although it's not a race). Among my clients, there are only three kinds of problems that keep a person coming for more than 6 to 8 sessions. These are severe childhood abuse, so-called personality disorders (which are usually due to childhood abuse and/or neglect) and simple loneliness: a person will pay my fee just to have someone to open up to. Depression, anxiety, relationship issues can typically be addressed in a month or two. This is not to say the problem has been abolished, but that the client has gained power and knowledge enough to solve the problem without my help.

   Show this email to your therapist, and challenge her: why has there been so little progress after a year?

   OK, you're 19, and this person is a fair bit older and has university degrees and experience and wisdom. But you are the 'customer', hiring the therapist to do a job. Why is the job not done yet?

   Dare to take charge.

   And why do you often feel unable to say anything to your therapist? Does she ask questions, make suggestions? Do the two of you agree on tasks you undertake to do during the week?

   Do you feel that the therapist judges you (and finds you wanting)? Are you anxious to make a good impression? Do you wait for leads from the therapist, and she just sits there silently and that doesn't work for you? If any of these are true, your therapist should have picked them up and addressed them. But since this is not the case, again, you can do so. You have the power, and the right.

   The aim of therapy is to empower you to be able to solve your own problems and to run your own life. OK, make use of it by taking charge of your life within therapy, and addressing the problem of why it has not been as effective as you feel it should have been.

   You may well find that this will be the first large step toward defeating your depression.

:)
Bob


Rebellious Teenager

   I know that you have proboly heard all this before but I need somewhere to turn. I hate everything, not just my self but everyone else in my life. Esspecially my parents. When ever anyone tells me what to do like to go to bed or to stop doing something I immidiatly want to do the opposite or I want to hit or break something and I do it alot. I have stoped believeing in God and hate all the idiots in the world that still do. Most of all I hate people who lack common sence or ask questions twice. This drives me nuts I want to kill them. help me

My friend,

   I don't have a name for you, or age or location. I can see that you are a teenager. At school?

   I've been where you now are. When I was a kid, I fought a secret war against my stepfather, and it could have ended in murder (one or the other of us). But then, he managed to get me out of the country, to the other side of the world, and kept my family behind.

   To some extent, it is normal to feel the way you do. It is part of developing independence. But it seems that for you it is worse than for others.

   The rule is, if you have a problem and are progressing toward a solution, you are OK and will get there. But if you feel stuck, if things are not getting better or are even getting worse, then you need outside help.

   If you do go to school, there is probably a school counselor. This is a psychologist with relevant training. This person will respect you, keep confidential about anything you say, and be your partner in making the changes you want to make.

   If you don't have access to a school counselor, or if you find that you don't get on with the person, the next thing will be to talk to your parents about it. You are intensely unhappy, but you can bet any amount that they are equally unhappy. In most places, there are mediation services by psychologists, specially for problems between teenagers and their families. If there is one near you, that'd be the best to try. Otherwise, any psychologist who is competent at using 'cognitive-behavioral', 'narrative' or 'interpersonal' therapy would be excellent. In most countries, there is a national psychologists association, for example the American Psychological Association. They have referral numbers that cost a local call.

Have a good life (believe it or not, you probably will).
Bob.


Fear Is No Longer My Reality

by Jamie Blyth

   I was involved with Jamie's book in its preparatory stages. It is now published by McGraw Hill, and selling well nationally.

   I have been lucky in life. I played pro basketball in Europe, was a contestant on ABC-TV's very first "Bachelorette" television series. Earlier this year, I published a book "Fear is No Longer My Reality," about my struggle with anxiety disorder, which makes my achievements seem all the more unbelievable. I have shared my story with Oprah, Diane Sawyer, CNN and many more.

   That's why it's important that we tell our stories. To help others believe in themselves and keep faith in the future.

   There will be times when we are so paralyzed by pain that day-to-day activities halt completely. Our illnesses will seem like an insurmountable wall. We won't see our future beyond it. Our self-esteem will seem shattered and it will be hard to believe that anyone can ever understand what we are going through.

   When I was 19, I locked myself in my college dorm room for almost a month, doing anything I could to avoid people and panic: hiding out in the darkness, trembling, and occasionally erupting in hard tears of desolation. My one attempt at help didn't pan out. I went to the university's health center, praying I wouldn't see anyone I knew and that no one would ask me why I was there. When an acquaintance from high school walked by, I catapulted out of the room. I never went back.

   When we have been through something traumatic like anxiety disorder or depression, we never really return to being who we were before.

   When we find a place that doesn't scare the wits out of us, we tend to stick around. We stay in safe, routine places. But the risk is that we also will get stuck, instead of using changes in us to make us stronger.

   On "The Bachelorette," after one embarrassing, awkward scene, televised to millions, I recognized that I was human. Not all of life is perfect. There's not a single person who gets to cruise through life like Joe Cool every day, with no little embarrassments, no skeletons in the closet.

   If anxiety was my skeleton, well, I decided to take it out of the closet. It could hold no more shame for me. Panic was one part of who I was, and it turned out to be the thing I was most proud of. Until the show, I had still told only a handful of people about my struggles, but that was about to end.

   I told the world that I had panic disorder and that I viewed it as a strength, A huge weight lifted from my shoulders as the words came out.

   People now come up to me all the time to share their stories or ask for help. That's what speaking out can do.

   One girl in particular made me realize that I did the right thing by sharing my story on national television. I was signing autographs in Orlando. She was 14 years old and had been standing in line. She told me she had been having panic attacks at school and other kids had made fun of her ruthlessly. "When you told your story, it was the first time people understood what I had been going through," she said, and started to sob. For the first time, she no longer felt alone.

   Many men wrote to say they were glad too that I had spoken out. Men feel extra pressure to be "strong" and believe that psychological problems make them somehow less "macho." We're allowed to break an arm or tear a ligament, but not feel scared, depressed or out of control.

   As letters poured in, I was proud that I was standing up against stigma. If I had seen a guy like me on television when I was suffering badly, I would have felt less ashamed and less alone.

   My anxiety and depression may return. But I know now how to deal with it.

   I will never forget my fear. Thank God, because I never want to. It's not something I see as shameful. Instead, I am proud that I stood tall against an adversary and chose to go through all the trials to get to where I am today.

   If you're going to stand up against your illness, the first thing you need is faith, because it may take time to see you are recovering. Sometimes other people can see we're getting better before we realize it ourselves. The shadows will pass if you choose to fight.

   Let's fight together and for each other. Let's throw away the shame and talk to one another without the facades so we can all know none of us is ever alone. Pain may unite us today, but triumph can be our everlasting prize if we help one another find our way out of darkness.


Reality is in the Eye of the Beholder...

   A friend forwarded this beauty to me:

   The NEW Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy.

   There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy, if the Pope won, they would have to leave.

    The Jewish people met and picked an aged but wise Rabbi Moishe to represent them in the debate. However, as Moishe spoke no Italian and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they all agreed that it would be a "silent" debate.

    On the chosen day, the Pope and Rabbi Moishe sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.

    Rabbi Moishe looked back and raised one finger.

    Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head.

    Rabbi Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat.

    The Pope then brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine.

    Rabbi Moishe pulled out an apple.

    With that, the Pope stood up and declared that he was beaten, that Rabbi Moishe was too clever, and that the Jews could stay.

    Later, the Cardinals met with the Pope, asking what had happened. The Pope said, "First, I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He had me beaten and I could not continue."

    Meanwhile the Jewish community were gathered around Rabbi Moishe. "How did you win the debate?" they asked.

    "I haven't a clue," said Moishe. "First he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I said to him, we're staying right here."

   "And then what?" asked a woman.

    "Who knows?" said Moishe, "He took out his lunch, so I took out mine."

   Cheers, Art Sevels.


Good Buys

(Announcements by my friends)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Mike Kechula
Cynthianna Appell
6 authors
Katie McKy
Andromeda Spaceways
Book Marketing from A to Z
A FREE contest with lots of prizes

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

   Carolyn Howard-Johnson's poetry has been chosen for two literary journals. MINDPRINTS, an Allan Hancock College publication edited by Paul Fahey featured Howard-Johnson's "Bon Sai" and MARY MAGAZINE, a publication of Saint Mary’s College of California edited by Michael Gardner published her "St. Petersburg Sestina."

   A UCLA Writers' Program instructor, Howard-Johnson is the author of THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T and teaches the art of book promotion for the Writers' Program. She is also the author of THIS IS THE PLACE and HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED. She is also the recipient of the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award. She has studied poetry with Suzanne Lummis at UCLA.

   Glendale, CA: Jessie Koester, director of information for Poets & Writers, has accepted Carolyn Howard-Johnson for the literary magazine's Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers.

   Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s poetry has appeared in literary journals like the Mochila Review, Banyan Review and The Pedestal Magazine. Her first novel, THIS IS THE PLACE, won eight awards. Her book of creative nonfiction has won three. She is a columnist for Home Décor Buyer as well as several online review sites like www.bookreviewcafe.com www.sellwritingonline.com and www.myshelf.com and is a film, theater and book reviewer. She also is an extension division instructor for UCLA’s Writers’ Program and her book THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON’T is USA Book News' "Best Professional Book 2004."

   Find the Poets & Writers listing here. Learn more about Carolyn Howard-Johnson at http://carolynhowardjohnson.com.


Mike Kechula

Crazy Stories for Crazy People

Publish America
ISBN 1-4137-5028-1
High quality paperback, $19.95.

   Who’s knocking on your door at midnight? A zombie delivering pizza? The voodoo-practicing detective you’ve hired to find your missing girlfriend? A weird kid who prowls the neighborhood, selling dreams? A machete-wielding mayor whose brains have turned to concrete? A blue gorilla, the town’s newest teacher?

   Meet all these bizarre characters and many others in this collection of fifty short stories. Be prepared for reckless adventures, peppered with fantasy, horror, and nutty satire.

   You don’t have to be crazy to enjoy “Crazy Stories for Crazy People.” The partially and nearly mad, and the certifiably sane may also relish these wild and wacky tales.

    Flash fiction fans will find thirty-two flash fiction stories consisting of 1,000 words or less. Seventeen other tales range from 1,000 to 2,000 words. Zombie Money, a roller coaster of deceit and delusion, has 13,200 words.

   Now, buckle your seatbelt, open the cover, and imbibe.

Michael Kechula, a retired tech writer, now writes flash and micro fiction. His works have appeared in ten magazines. He's also editor of two magazines.In May 2005, Apollo’s Lyre will devote their entire issue to a dozen of Kechula’s speculative, flash fiction tales. www.apolloslyre.com.

   Kechula also serves as Submissions Editor for Coffee Cramp, a print magazine, and Sr. Editor of Nimue’s Grotto, an online, speculative fiction magazine.


Cynthianna Appel

   For every copy of her novel Beautiful Dreamer sold within the first three months of publication, Cynthianna Appel will donate $1 to charity.

   Multi-published romance novelist, Cynthianna Appel, had this crazy dream... Not quite as crazy as the dreams her heroine Marianne has in her newest romantic-comedy release, Beautiful Dreamer from Triskelion Publishing, but it was crazy nonetheless. Her "Beautiful Dream" went like this:

   Appel doesn't plan to make any money off this book by giving away $1 per book sold. In fact, she's already in the hole because of advertising and other promotional costs associated with publishing. Appel says, "At the end of the day, I'll still be a poor, struggling writer, but at least I'll be able to MAKE THE WORLD SMILE by giving financially to worthy charities."

   The first charity she plans to help is the Red Cross, which has had a busy year helping victims of the recent South Asia Tsunami disaster and many people displaced because of the violence in Darfur, Sudan, among others.

   She will announce the second charity as soon as the first goal of $100 has been met. And she appreciates readers' suggestions.

   To enter a contest for a gift basket of fun stuff related to the theme of Beautiful Dreamer, sign up at Appel's web site.

   You needn't buy the book to enter the contest. But according to Appel, "If you do enter the MAKE THE WORLD SMILE contest, you can support a worthwhile charity while enjoying a zany romantic tale of a sexy sleepwalking librarian who meets a commitment-shy sheriff during the mayhem of Rodeo Week in a wacky West Texas town."


Six Authors Raise Money for Education

   Six Authors of electronic books have teamed up to present a raffle with proceeds to provide scholarships benefiting students in the Los Angeles City College writing programs. Free CDs and goodie bags with information about the raffle and the author's books will be distributed at the LA Times Book Festival on the UCLA campus, April 23 and 24, 2005 at the Author's Coalition Booth 901, Zone I, while supplies last. It isn't necessary to attend the fair to participate in the raffle.

   Fifty-three great prizes beckon you, including two in which a winner's name is written into a novel! There are also autographed copies of books by well-known authors, complimentary dinners at restaurants in the Santa Monica and Westwood areas of Los Angeles, a hand-blown glass Fairie Light, antique hatbox and more.

   The authors involved with the project are: Carolyn Howard-Johnson, whose The Frugal Book Promoter was USA Book News "Best Professional Book 2004." She is the winner of the California Legislature's "Women of the Year in Arts and Entertainment" award; Marilyn Peake, award winning author of the children's book The Fisherman's Son; Ann Durand, award winner of flash fiction and author of the best selling novel A Promise to Keep; Sandra Leigh, author of Mercy's Ransom; K.L Nappier, who won awards for her novel Full Wolf Moon; and Susan Merson, award winning actress and author of YOUR NAME HERE: An Actor and Writer's Guide to Solo Performance.

   The fair is one of the country's premier literary events and is free to the public. The Festival promises endless booths, book signings, poetry readings, and an extensive children's area with books for sale.

   The raffle is featured on Double Dragon Publishing and TRI Studio websites. Double Dragon Publishing is a Canadian press that specializes in bringing to print exceptional authors that would otherwise not be read. Piers Anthony says "Double Dragon is one of the best, if not THE best, of the electronic publishers." TRI Studio represents authors Kathe Gogolewski and Ann Durand and is dedicated to offering readers the best in children's literature and romantic suspense for adults.

   Raffle tickets are $1 and may be purchased now at www.double-dragon-ebooks.com. Click on FEELING LUCKY? Or go to at www.TRI-Studio.com and click on RAFFLE.


Katie McKy

   I wrote a fart picture book, It All Began With a Bean.

   A week after its release, I received a letter. Anonymous. A wee, scribbled rant on onionskin paper.

   Its author assured me that she hadn't read my book. Then she asserted that it should be banned.

   "Gee," I mused. "Banned?"

   At first, I was hurt. Then I remembered that folks still try to ban the books of Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Alice Walker, and Mark Twain. And so I swaggered. But not for long.

   After all, I merely wrote a fart book. It wasn't my intent to yank America's chain. I just wanted to pull America's finger…and see what would happen.

   And my fart book wasn't even groundbreaking.

   There is already a fart phenomenon in children's literature, headed by the bestseller, Walter the Farting Dog. No, I merely joined the line of fart authors, or flatulence scribes, as we prefer to be called.

   Sure, I teased the fart phenom a little farther, for in "…Bean," I answer a former second grader's question, "What would happen if everyone in the world farted at once?"

   So my fart book is the big bang, the perfect storm, the mighty wind of farts.

   Or is it just a tale told by an idiot, full of stink and fury, signifying nothing?

   Well, the professional critics have praised my sweet, whimsical response to a sour, discomforting question, but one can't please everyone.

   The onionskin note, which I posted, reminds me of that.

   But I have hope. If I can just provoke a few more such notes, then maybe I can hang with Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, and Alice Walker at the First Amendment Café.

   But even there, I might have to employ euphemisms, for in the end in the end, no matter how you count the letters, f-a-r-t is a four letter word.

   So while Lee and Walker talk about the trials of writing about racism, I'll say, "You know, it ain't no Sunday stroll to write about wafting something unseemly off your back porch. And I've got the onionskin to prove it."

It All Began With a Bean.
Published by Tanglewood Press
Hardcover $14.95
ISBN 0-9749303-0-X


Andromeda Spaceways

   Andromeda Spaceways is a free newsletter. The name should give you an idea of what it is about. Issue # 17 includes an interview with high-profile writer Terry Prachett, 7 stories, lots of reviews, articles and fun.


Francine Silverman

   Book Marketing from A-Z was published in March 2005 by Infinity Publishing. A compilation of the best promotional strategies of 300+ authors of all genres, the book was compiled by Francine Silverman as editor/publisher of Book Promotion Newsletter.

   In an alphabetical format for ease of use, Book Marketing from A-Z is packed with unique ideas from Advertising (Pros and Cons) to Zero Promotion (when the book sells itself). Whether the author of one or 100 titles, self-published or traditionally published, these contributors are brutally honest about their pleasures and pitfalls.

   Readers will learn by their mistakes and adapt ideas in promoting their own books.

   "This book contains everything a new (or even experienced) author needs to begin marketing," writes book reviewer Jeremy Hoover. "Authors might be surprised to learn that there are many free things they can do to market their books!"

   The 400-page paperback is available at http://www.buybooksontheweb.com (Category: Marketing).


Bookswelove.net

   To show our appreciation to our faithful readers, Books We Love is having several Books We Love Reader Appreciation Days drawings. To participate in these drawings all you need to do is fill out the survey located on the contest page: http://www.bookswelove.net/contest.html. For every completed survey, you’ll receive one entry into our BOOKS WE LOVE READER APPRECIATION DAYS drawing. There will be dozens and dozens of books, both paperbacks and ebooks given away to our readers. You will find all the information for this drawing by going to the Books We Love main page http://www.bookswelove.net and clicking on the button that says: READER APPRECIATION DAYS CONTEST.


The Shirt Pocket

   Fashion designers have been frustrated with men for many years. Unlike women, we have not yet been conned into regular drastic changes of appearance, requiring the complete replacement of apparel. Men's indifference to fashion is terrible for business.

   Just think of the cost of a suit. Imagine needing to buy a new one each year...

   All the same, the rag trade keeps trying. One of the things they vary is the shirt pocket.

   Most men's shirts have one or two pockets on the chest, and isn't that good? You can hook a pen in there. Sunglasses, and for those who need them, ordinary glasses can rest in the pocket while not in use. And if (ugh, you poor thing) you happen to be a smoker, the tools of your habit can live and ride on your chest, handy and close without being in the way.

   These are just some of the potential uses for a shirt pocket. It is definitely a useful device.

   Only, some shirt pockets are less useful than others.

   Ever tried to clip a pen back into the shirt pocket?

   It's a cool day, so I am wearing a sweater. My left hand is holding my diary, and with the right I am scabbling under the sweater, trying to get that pen to go where I want it. Will it go? Of course not. The shirt designer thought that a button-down flap with its corners sewn on would make the shirt look distinctive. So, I need to put down my diary, and bury both my arms under the sweater in order to achieve a simple task.

   A small matter? Yes. But it illustrates a couple of larger ones.

   First, when you design anything, you get what you aim for. If the design process considers only appearance, it will not also automatically provide a useful object. However, something designed to be optimally useful can always be made to look nice.

   Second, I am not a market to be milked, thank you. If you want to make money from me, sell me objects that exactly satisfy my needs, not something that needs to be replaced simply because it's last year's look.


Writing

J. Conrad Guest: on the novel as an art form.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson on book promotion.
Sally Odgers on her long history of writing.

What has Happened to the Novel as an Art Form?

by J. Conrad Guest

   Today's emerging writers are encouraged by a host of resources, including Writer's Digest and The Writer, to adhere to a strict set of rules. The result is that today's popular fiction finds all the punctuation in place and the sentence structure clean, narrative held to a calculated fraction of dialogue, and certain devised bells and whistles implemented to urge the reader to turn to the next page; but the characters seem a bit detached (writers are advised to separate themselves from their characters), the grammar a bit bland (lacking the beauty of a finely crafted sentence that leaves the reader breathless and stays with them long after they've closed the book for the last time)… all of which amounts to a formula. Something is missing -- signature.

   Signature identifies the author to the reader. If you've ever read Joseph Conrad, you certainly will be able to identify his signature. Conrad and other writers from previous eras, like Twain and Dickens, created art. They weren't afraid to infuse their work with a healthy dose of themselves, perhaps because they understood, at some level, that readers read novels because what they really want is to know the author.

   For a story to appeal to a reader, it must mirror, either through its protagonist or storyline, something in the reader's life, or it will fall flat. The failure to touch all readers is not a failure of the author; like other art mediums, fiction is not meant to appeal to everyone. You either get Jackson Pollock or you don't. Rodin leaves you in awe or yawning.

   Samuel R. Delany, arguably one of the most influential science fiction writers of all time, said: "Above all things, the story, the poem, the text is -- and is only -- what its words make happen in the reader's mind. And all readers are not the same. Any reader has the right to say of any text: 'But I didn't think it was that good.'"

   Despite publication of 100,000 more books in 2003 than in 2002, a report by the Book Industry Study Group, a not-for-profit research organization, stated that 23 million fewer books were sold in 2003 than in 2002. While a struggling economy and the used book market can be considered factors in declining sales, cable and satellite, radio, music and movies all offer better value for the consumer's entertainment dollar. Reading is a solitary endeavor, one which will in all likelihood be enjoyed but once, while the other entertainment offerings require less effort and can be enjoyed, sequentially, as a couple or as a family.

   Yet the one factor the publishing industry fails to consider as contributing to declining sales is the product they feed the consumer. The publishing industry once comprised of 70 or 80 competing businesses. Today, as five corporate bean counters, it insists on such wide audience appeal that most popular fiction is, like two opposing politicians afraid to discuss their respective platforms for fear of offending some minority group, watered down. Hence they've taken much of the innovation and signature, and unfortunately most of the art, out of the novel. It's unfortunate that the market for literary art seems to go largely untapped, and perhaps even more unfortunate that most of today's popular fiction will, in the next millennium, be forgotten, while past works that today are considered classics will endure. Such is the significance of true art.

   J. Conrad Guest is the author of January’s Paradigm. As a contributing writer to Encore magazine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he writes about the people and businesses in the Kalamazoo area. He has written two murder mysteries that have been successfully produced, and several short stories that have appeared on Internet e-zines.


A Magic Formula for Book Promotion

   Here is an extract from Carolyn Howard-Johnson's popular book, The Frugal Book Promoter.

   The new math for free publicity is: E-book + E-gift = FREE Promotion.

   My best promotional accidentally fell into my lap. It is a free e-book called Cooking by the Book. This includes three magical concepts:
1. Accidental
2. Free
3. E-book.

   COOKING BY THE BOOK is a concept developed by Kathleen Walls, author of THE LAST STEP. She asked more than two dozen authors from several countries to contribute to a book that would be given away free to anyone--as a gift of appreciation to the support teams it takes to write and market a book and to the legions of readers who cook but who had never read any of our books. Each invited author had written at least one kitchen scene in his book. Each segment of the cookbook begins with an excerpt from that scene, the recipe comes next and then there is a short blurb about the author. We believe that a whole new cookbook concept was born and know that an outstanding promotional tool was also created.

   This E-tool was intended to cross-pollinate promotion. Each contributing author was to publicize it any way she chose. The only caveats were that participants must not charge for it and must promote it. That way each contributor would benefit from the efforts, the lists, and the contacts of the other authors. It turned out that we had some superior promoters among us:

  • Joyce Livingston set up a page on her site promoting her book, LUCY'S QUILT, as did most of the rest of us.
  • Contributor Peggy Hazelwood promoted it in her newsletter for book lovers and writers, the Albooktross Web-foot News.
  • Mary Emma Allen writes novels and nonfiction but she's also a columnist for New Hampshire dailies The Citizen and The Union Leader where the cookbook was a featured.
  • David Leonhardt, author of CLIMB YOUR STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, incorporated the cookbook into a Happiness Game Show speech that he'd delivered over a dozen times in Canada and elsewhere.
  • We all gave away coupons offering this gift at book signings. Because it costs nothing, it is a gift that can be given to everyone, not just those who purchase a book. Some had bookmarks made up featuring this offer.

       Reviewer JayCe Crawford said, "For a foodie-cum-fiction-freak like me, this cookbook is a dream come true," and that review has popped in places we didn't even know existed (one finds these pleasant promotion surprises by surfing the search engines using your book's title or other entities related to the book like the reviewer's name.)

       Our most startling success came from sources we had no connection to at all. It was featured in Joan Stewart's The Publicity Hound, in Writer's Weekly, on MyShelf.com, in the iUniverse newsletter and more. I had the highest rate of interest I'd ever had when I queried radio stations for interviews and that was in competition with a pitch for THIS IS THE PLACE just before the 2002 games in Salt Lake City and an intolerance angle on the same novel right after 9/11. I'm not through yet. Mother's day is an occasion that beckons each of us to repeat our publicity blitzes every year, because, if you haven't noticed, mothers tend to do lots of cooking. This book was so successful I collaborated with Sarah Mankowski on a similar one called Seasoned Greetings for the holidays.

       Back to those three magic words:

    1. Accidental: I don't take credit for knowing a good thing when I saw it. What I learned from this experience is to never dismiss something that is placed on your desk without careful consideration--even if it seems vaguely hokey. I nearly did just that. "E-book indeed," I said to myself. I was worried that association with this concept might taint my work of literary art. Hubris can be very self-defeating.

    2. Free: This charmed word often convinced editors to present our cookbook as a freebie to their visitors and readers. Many websites featured it on their home pages. Usually the contributing author who pitched it was privileged with their own promotional site's URL being used as a link, thus motivating those authors who hadn't publicized as actively as others to do more. Some editors chose to place the entire cookbook download on their own site rather than provide a link, and that was OK, too.

    3. E-book: This concept is important because an e-book is easy for people to obtain and can be free publicity for the author. She need not budget for postage or processing expenses. In the invitations, queries, and releases I sent out I emphasized a no strings attached attack: I assured everyone that they would not be expected to register to the site, sign up for a newsletter nor purchase a thing. The E-book concept is also important because--though it may not be new to you and me--the media is still infatuated with it. This aspect alone can be the hook for obtaining an article or an interview.

       Oh, and there may be a fourth magic word. Cookbook. Our group of authors found this word had universal appeal. You might find something else that works much better for you, ties in better with what you're doing. I've been thinking of doing something similar utilizing the subject of genealogy because my novel is based on the stories of my own ancestors, four generations of them. It is not necessary that the freebie be knitted to your primary title; you may benefit by a theme that reaches out, draws in those who might not otherwise be exposed to your work. That may appeal to a narrower audience than a cookbook but not by much. Everyone loves something that is FREE.

       Here are some ways I utilized these e-books:

  • I give them as gifts, or in this case, e-gifts.
  • I use them as thank-yous to people who visit my site.
  • I pass out coupons offering them at book signings (Something free is always an attractions at book signings. (See my chapter on promotional items--everything from logo merchandise to unique gift ideas) to encourage both those who buy my books and those who don't to visit my site.
  • I include information on these gifts on the back of my business cards for the same reasons.
  • I send out my news releases on these books whenever I run across another place that seems as if our CB Book would interest their audience.

       COOKING BY THE BOOK and my other e-books are like hospitality gifts excepting better because they promote not only my work but that of others. (If the concept interests you, go to http://carolynhowardjohnson.com to download them at no cost, of course.)


    How to be a professional writer

       Sally Odgers is a friend and colleague of long standing. She won one of the short story contests I used to run, and we've shared many writing experiences. Here is her contribution to a writing list we both belong to:

    Sean asked --

    >What's it like to be working on new books after having
    > written so many? I'm interested in finding out what
    > kind of changes a writer goes through after being a
    > pro for a while.

       That depends on the book, Sean. I write so many different genres and lengths that I never get tired of any one of them. Also, the fashion keeps changing, so I reinvent what I write ever couple of years. Finally, I do so much commission work these days that the chance to write something new that I WANT to write is rare.

    IN GENERAL --

       I usually have trouble with first chapters, and with endings. I always plan longer stories in detail before I write, but by the time I reach the end the characters have sometimes developed in a way that means the planned ending won't "take".

       And then, it's all too easy to say, in a plan; "Alice overhears Joanna's phone call" and then, when you get to that point in the story, you realise Alice wouldn't, because Joanna is smart enough to make the call from her cell phone while standing out in the open where Alice can't catch her.

       Or you might say; "Clive forgives Jane and they decide to move in after all", and then when it comes to it, you know Clive isn't the kind of bloke who forgives ANYONE, let alone Jane...

       I think the difference for old stagers like me is not that these things don't still happen, but that I know I can get round it. If CH 1 is playing up, I do CH 2,3,4 and then go back to the beginning when the characters have developed a bit. If the last chapter is being a pill, I delete it and start it again. If a character has developed unexpectedly, I replot the story to match. Like a cook who can "rescue" a salty soup with a raw potato, or turn a flopped sponge into a trifle, I know I can usually fix a problem. Every new book (the longer ones... I don't mean the 1000 word jobs) throws a new set of challenges, but I know from long experience that I can probably manage.

        THE FUN PART Now and then I write something the the heck of it. My latest was a 25,000 word comedy erotica novella about VR, Ancient Greece and a modern-day Atalanta who nobbles her suitor/opponents, one by one.

       Now THAT was a challenge.

    CHANGES --

       Some of the changes that I've been through are probably not what you'd like to hear, but you did ask-

       My first book came out in 1977... nearly 30 years ago. I was green, and over the moon.

       My second one was rejected.

       My third one was a commission for a teen fiction line. It was rejected with the comment that "the author knows nothing about teenagers". I objected to that. I WAS a teenager!

       Thus, at 19, I learned that my own experience and opinions were totally untrustworthy and that I shouldn't write what I knew, or what I wanted, but what other people thought they knew and knew they wanted.

       I rewrote the book, and it was published.

       My fourth book was another commission. It had to be rewritten because the characters spoke too well and sounded old-fashioned.

       They spoke the way I do, so presumably I sounded old- fashioned and my mum should NOT have sent me for elocution lessons!

       OK, back to the drawing board.

       By the late 1980s, I'd learned a few more lessons, namely that farm and family books were out of fashion, that Australian editors didn't like "high" fantasy and that sf was totally unsellable in Australia.

       I also learned that you could live in a small town all your life, have 12 books published in 7 years, and still be totally unknown as a writer.

       I was lucky, in a way. I passed the dread 10 year/ 7 book stage that knocks so many people out of the business while I was still young enough not to know when I was beaten. Over the years I've seen a lot of colleagues drop out of writing at about that stage. 10/7 is when they realise that though they've had a fair number of books published they're not going to "make it".

       At 10/7 books, you're not a Rising Star. You're a Reliable Writer... aka a midlister. If you haven't made it to the best seller lists or the award lists at 10/7, you probably won't. It's at that point that people get discouraged, depressed, or plain disillusioned.

       I was 22 when I hit the 7 book mark and 27 when I hit the 10 year mark. By then, my mind was so firmly entrenched in "writer" mindset that I was stuck with it. Writer is what I am, and what I have been since early childhood. To change that would be like making me 5 foot two, eyes of blue instead of 5'7" with hazel eyes.

    GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS --

       The bad news is--I was right. I've never hit the big time and I never will. I've come close to breakthroughs several times, but on every occasion the fashion has changed, the company folded, the editor left, or the funding has been pulled. The last time it happened was a few months back when the editor who liked my "big" fantasy trilogy was told from On High that her company would no longer be publishing novels.

       The good news is--I can earn a living from writing. I still enjoy what I do (although my hands are seriously compromised by tendonitis). I haven't burned out, I haven't lost the plot and I've outlasted many writers who started later in life and had greater critical success. I have also learned that if you can outsit the 10/7 thing, you can come to terms with what you have rather than what you want. You can learn not to expect too much, so you get a nice surprise when something good happens.

       (My husband and I wrote four little books about a dog detective and sold the lot to Scholastic! That was very nice.)

       You learn not to get depressed if something is rejected, or if a breakthrough breaks down. You also realise that no one gives a flying cow if you write books or not. That's rather liberating!

    Sallyo.

    Sally Odgers is a professional writer from Tasmania. Her career spans four decades; interesting, since she's still in her 40s. Visit her virtually at http://www.sallyodgers.com, or buy her latest books "Matt the Mage" (Banana Books), "Doggeroo Dog Den Mystery" (Scholastic, co-written with Darrel Odgers) and "A Bird, a Bloke and A Boyfriend", (Dorchester).


    Electronic publishing: the good news

    by Lynne Connolly

       How do we develop the e-book market? I've been thinking: (not good for me).

       It is making money, and it will. There are too many USP's (Unique Selling Points) for it not to.

       Here are a few.

    1. The books are available worldwide on an equal basis -- no postage costs, available instantly (with a small delay to verify payment).

    2. They can be downloaded and read on a variety of devices -- pda, dedicated reader, phone etc.

    3. It is the only sector of the publishing market to be expanding at present. The numbers have now increased from startup level, and can be regarded as significant.

    4. E-books can be read in the dark, on a backlit screen.

    5. They possess searchable text.

    6. The print size can be enlarged at will.

    7. An ebook can be expanded to include a variety of experiences, like sound and vision.

       One of the most significant parts is that e-books are attracting a new market -- the young. While a young person might not carry a book as a matter of course, he or she feels naked without his or her phone. You can take photos, call your friends, go online -- so why not read books as well?

       What would be useful is an agreed format for ebooks. PDA is fast becoming that. Videos didn't really take off until VHS became the agreed format. Then, economies of scale could be employed, and video recorders produced in bulk. We need a cheap e-book reader, available for around the $30 mark, which supports the most common formats. Then publishers could offer a free e-book reader for every X books sold.

       They also need to think outside the usual distribution box. Sell to phone shops, video and tape outlets like HMV, computer stores. Not bookstores, which are dying on their feet, and do seem resistant to the idea, but to stores that are already savvy, stores the younger and techie element frequent. Though it would be silly to ignore the bookstore, there are other, perhaps less resistant outlets which have hardly been touched yet.

       My daughter is obsessed with the Final Fantasy PS2 game. So why not sell in games stores? Some of the fantasy titles would stand up very well to the ongoing games.

    Lynne Connolly lives in England with her family and cats. She is the author of the Richard and Rose books, and other sensual historical romances. "Harley Street" won the 2005 EPPIE for Romantic Suspense. With "The Chemistry of Evil" for Triskelion, Lynne has moved into the field of the urban gothic, a genre that stimulates her already overactive imagination. She plans to write more in the genre, but she will never abandon her beloved history.


    Reviews

    Striking Back From Down Under
    A Promise to Keep
    Strange Valley

    Striking Back From Down Under
    reviewed by Susie Hawes

    Title: Striking Back From Down Under
    Author: Dr. Bob Rich
    Genre: Anthology
    Publisher: Twilight Times Books
    Pages: 180
    Price US: 4.50
    Rating: 5/5

       In the 22 stories in Striking Back From Down Under, Dr. Bob Rich introduces us to a host of richly drawn characters illustrating the concepts of justice or revenge. The author delves into the lives of his characters, studying motivation, personality and perhaps causal events that contribute to the actions of the people in his tales. Laced with humor, irony and introspection, these tales are sometimes sad or tragic, sometimes humorous, satisfying or disturbing, but they are always well-written.

       In Takeover Bid, we see the darker side of contact with aliens. A woman, thrilled at first to have her youth restored, soon discovers that this gift comes with horible consequences.

       The Last Day of School is a heart-rending look at modern slavery, told through the eyes of a child.

       Will, the self-centered villian in Fishing Expedition", ets his just desserts, but isn't too terribly upset about it. Bob remarks that Will is his favorite villain; charming, talented and intelligent, he is without a sense of morality. He makes a great character.

       Most of the stories carry a footnote by Dr. Rich that discusses the tale. These serve to enrich the reading experience greatly. Hats off to Dr. Bob Rich for an entertaining, thoughtful look at life.


    A Promise to Keep
    by Ann Durand, reviweved by Susan Stephenson

    Double Dragon E-books
    Price $5.99.

       A Promise to Keep is a romantic suspense novel by Ann Durand, aka Kathe Gogolewski. Right from the start of this riveting story, we are caught up in Karen Hudson's life as she desperately tries to find, and clear the name of, the man she loves. Karen is soon plunged into a nightmare that tests her love for Michael and finally brings her into contact with cold-blooded evil. The plot twists and turns and leaves you breathless as you follow the characters' fortunes.

       What sets this book apart from others in the genuine "likability" of the characters. Karen is feisty, caring and very human--a heroine all of us can relate to. Michael is a good man caught up in criminal circumstances, but his love for his little girl, and for Karen, never falters. Jeannie, Michael's daughter, is that rarity in fiction, a sweet-natured child who acts believably in the face of adversity. The secondary characters are all deftly drawn and believable--Ann Durand's characterization is an outstanding feature of her writing.

       The dialog is believable and sweep s the reader up into the characters' lives. It is easy to read and smoothly-written. Much of the book's humour comes from Karen's internal dialog, which reveals wry observations such as the likelihood of joining Michael as a skeleton because of her lack of food.

       That Ann Durand meticulously researched the setting for A Promise to Keep is obvious. She skillfully interweaves the main plot with details about the Barrancas del Cobre. This gives her novel another dimension and allows us an insight into the lives of the Tarahumara Indians.

       Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of A Promise to Keep. Plot, characterization, dialogue, authenticity and those wonderful flashes of humour make it a rattling good read. It is available from Double Dragon.

    Using the name Kathe Gogolewski, Ann also writes children’s stories. Her fantasy/adventure, TATO, is due out from Wings ePress in November, 2005.You may enjoy her poetry and short stories in upcoming issues of Penwomanship, Long Story Short, Storyteller Magazine and Jacobyte Books. She lives in San Diego, California.

    Susan Stephenson lives in Australia, half was between Sydney and Brisbane. She writes: 'I taught K-6 and an afterschool drama class for 7-15 year-olds. Team-taught Kindergarten during the later years but probably enjoyed Year 6 the most. In 2003, I went to China with my husband and son and we taught English to 12-17 year olds. That was my last hooray. I have been working on learning to be a writer ever since.'


    Strange Valley
    by Darrell Bain, reviewed by Mayra Calvani

    Publisher: Twilight Times Books
    ISBN: 1-931201-23-4
    Genre: SF suspense
    Format: Trade paperback
    Release date: Oct. 15, 2004
    Price: $15.50

       A clerk working in the census bureau discovers a series of anomalies in the population of a small city located in the Ozark Mountains.

       Hell breaks loose in the National Security Agency when a seemingly innocuous clerk at the Census department makes a startling discovery: Masterville, a little city set at the bottom of a valley in northern Arkansas, seems to have some distinct anomalies which set it apart from the rest of the United States.

       As the data indicate, Masterville has almost no crime, higher incomes, and more children in spite of a noticeably low marriage rate. Its residents show a longer life-span. Its schools and hospitals receive no funding from the government. Its streets lack hotels and all sort of franchises like McDonald's or Wal-Mart; all business are privately owned by local residents. But the most significant anomaly appears to be that even though the city is situated in the middle of the Bible Belt, most of the population show no religious preference. What's more, these strange records seem to go back to the Civil War.

       Are Masterville residents mutants? What is their origin? Are they even aware of their own anomalies? Is some sort of epidemic taking place? Immediately an investigation is ordered and Daniel Stenning and Shirley Rostervick, NSA field agents, are assigned to the case. Posing as a married couple, they go to Masterville, where a series of twists and turns await them.

       Things are brought out of proportion by the President of the United States, a ruthless, paranoid ex-preacher who sees a conspiracy against America under every rock and is obsessed with bringing Christian values into the government, a man portrayed as a radical fundamentalist, pitifully ignorant in the subject of science. A city where residents donTt get married and show no religious preference? What will happen to our cherished American values? Logically, Masterville becomes an imminent threat. Whether this scenario is a parody of our present government situation, the reader will have to decide.

       Definitely a good story. The first chapter is fascinating and the subsequent ones maintain a high tempo of action and suspense that will keep you curious to the end. The science is believable and intelligently written. This book also deals with issues worth pondering. Darrell Bain is a name I will keep my eye on for future reviews. Five stars.

       Reviewed by Mayra Calvani for The Midwest Book Review.


    Sergeant Ryker

    by James L. Choron

       The late Lee Marvin was one of Hollywood's most versatile actors, He could play almost any role, and play it convincingly. His funniest role was the whiskey sodden gunfighter "Kid Shaleen" in "Cat Ballou"... a lot of people don't realize that he really was that drunk in some of those scenes. Another fact that most people do not know is this… The Cold War drama "Sergeant" Ryker, one of Marvin's best dramatic films, is based at least partially on fact.

       For years, the U.S. claimed that POWs from the Korean War were still being held in the Soviet Union. Even now, this idiocy resurfaces from time to time. There was never anything to it. Some were sent here for questioning during the war. But… all of them were returned to North Korea, where they either died or were repatriated after the war. Those still listed as "Missing in Action" died in the hands of the North Koreans. This was laid at the recently deceased Stalin's feet to keep the North Koreans from having to admit to the incredible number of POWs, from all allied nations, who died of starvation and disease, along with thousands of their own people.

       There was one notable exception…

       For years the story kept coming up in the West that there was an American Serviceman living in Siberia. Some said that he was being "held prisoner". Most didn't know what the story was. He was just supposed to be "out there" somewhere. Nobody here in Russia ever paid much attention to the tale since it was so silly on the surface. But, no matter how patently silly it was, it just wouldn't go away. Then, almost fifty years after the end of the war, the story turned out to be true after all.

       Around the end of 1950, one of those POWs who had been sent here for questioning managed to jump the train as it passed through a remote Siberian village. The villagers couldn't understand a word he said. But they knew that he was an American and that he was headed for interrogation by the NKVD. That was something that most of them, being Siberians, understood all too well.

       It was at this point that things began to get complicated.

       Siberians being Siberians, the locals banded together and did the only logical thing: they hid him. In time he learned to speak Russian. In an little more time, he married a local girl. Pretty soon, he had four kids and was firmly entrenched as the village blacksmith.

       Every time anyone would catch on that he was there and send somebody looking for him--about twice a year--they'd take to the woods and stay until whoever it was got tired of looking and left. If anyone asked why the village smithy was closed, someone would just shrug and say that Ivan Ivanovich, the Smith, was away fishing or hunting for a week or two, or in some other village, several hundred kilometers away, caring for a sick relative. They always bought it. Of course, the local Militia was in on the act. After all, it was Siberia. Who among them had any love for the government? Any government? No one had ever come there voluntarily.

       This went on for almost fifty years. At first it was the Soviet Government trying to find him and send him back to Korea. At the end, it was the Russian Government, trying to find him and send him back to the States. It didn't matter who was looking. He didn't want to go, and if he didn't want to go, damned if the Siberians would let anybody take him against his will. By the time "Ivan Ivanovich" finally died he had one of the biggest clans, and the prettiest set of forged papers, in all of Western Siberia, and it's a place that's famous for both.

       When he finally headed for that big repatriation camp in the sky, some of his folks took his old dog tags to the Militia (National Police) and asked that his death be reported to the U.S. Army. The Major in charge, born and raised in the place, knew all about the whole scam. He looked at them like they all had two heads and asked, quite sincerely, "are you nuts?" They finally convinced him to do it. The U.S. Embassy verified it. Someone "leaked" the story to ORT, and just before New Year, 2001, Russian Public Television aired a special showing of "Sgt. Ryker" and superimposed the old boy's life story during intermissions.

       Naturally, the U.S. isn't going to say much about this. He wasn't exactly a "POW" even though he started out that way. The story just couldn't be "spun" in a way that the "Cold War" propaganda machine that's still in place can deal with. I mean he wasn't exactly continually trying to "escape" and get out of the "evil empire" was he?

    Jim Choron is a regular contributor. He is a journalist who lives and works in Russia. He has a deep understanding of, and love for, the people of that great country, and is a bridge between them and his native America.


    A slight correction to the last issue.

       Bob, I just read the end of the review of Thrips, which was great, btw, and I appreciate your running it. However, I am not sure how Susie got the idea that I was a bouncer. I was a bartender for a while, but never a bouncer. Kind of embarrassing, since I was a lover and not a fighter in those days, a musician, an artist of the mixed drink, not all that muscular at all. If you can repair that, I'd be greatly appreciative. She may have gotten the info from http://www.lrfarley.com/aboutme.html and misread or misinterpreted the facts.

    Bob Farley


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