Bobbing Around

Volume Thirteen, Number Two
September, 2013

Bob Rich's (melting ice coloured) rave  other issues

*About Bobbing Around
  guidelines for contributions
  Election idiocy
  A drawing by Jill Redwood
  Two calls to action, from Bill Sosinsky
  Siberia, The Newest Hot Spot, by Andrew Breiner
  Our sustainability crisis didn’t start and doesn’t stop at climate change, by Steb Fisher
*Good news
  Metal roofs: a lesson from the true poverty experts, by Michael
  Rubbish recycled into sustainable building
  Bringing Back the Night: A Fight Against Light Pollution, by Paul Bogard
  Indian Farmers Growing Record Yields With No GMO Crops or Pesticides
*Deeper issues
  How the creative mind works, by Michael Michalko
  What is a counselling psychologist anyway?
  Acne has ruined my life
  Rethinking Red Wine, by Debbie Hampton
*For writers
  The dossier: who is this character?
  Writing Believable Characters, by Lorna Collins
  Is Your Main Character's Head Filled with Lies? by Joan Y. Edwards
*What my friends want you to know
  Married Couple Keeps Up with the Digital Revolution, from Carolyn
  Balance your Life in 7 Steps plus 15 FREE Gifts! by Robin Marvel
  Borderlands Press writers' bootcamp
  Support prostate cancer research in September
  New film on the health costs of power
  Ice ride, Sunday 15th September
*Book reviews
  Striking Back from Down Under reviewed by Michael Thal
  Ascending Spiral, reviewed by:
  Christina St Clair
  Allen Currie
  Sara Van Dyck
  Connie Peck
  Jan Sikes
  Bob Gannaway
  I want to be a tree
*A bit of fun
  Biological pest control

Bobbing or blogging?

   I have stopped accepting new clients, and as it has been for many years, my clients have the habit of getting well quickly. So, my workload is easing. I'll be letting go of a couple of my locations by the end of September, and hopefully will ease down to next to nothing by November, when my registration as a psychologist runs out.

   Until now, I have shied away from maintaining a blog, because everyone tells me you need to post two, three times a week, and certainly a minimum of 1/7. I was barely able to keep Bobbing Around going at once a month or less.

   So, I thought I'd ask your advice. Should I...

1. Keep Bobbing Around going at about once a month?

2. Increase publication frequency, with less content per issue, but keep the newsletter format?

or 3. Start a blog?

   I suspect that if I run a blog, it will cover the same content, and the overall volume of material will be similar or more. Would you be interested in "following" it?

   Finally, I'd be grateful for any suggestions to help me.

   Please consider this to be a survey. FIVE lucky responders will have earned a free book.


Blog appearance

   On the 7th of October, Karen Kioffi will feature a few words from me. Actually, it is a reproduction of my writing essay below: The dossier: who is this character?, so you don't actually need to READ it after having looked at this issue of Bobbing Around. However, I'd be grateful if you could spread the word, and visit to leave a comment.


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.

   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.

The "Law of Attraction" so often shows up as the "Law of Repulsion." By "wanting" something, we perpetuate the field of "wanting" ... and so the desired object always remains "out there," just out of reach.

Steve Bhaerman


Election idiocy

Election idiocy

   The Australian government is about to change hands, from terrible but with some good policies, to far worse, with disastrous policies. New Prime Minister designate Tony Abbott will "fix" the asylum seeker "problem" with great harshness. He intends to undo every law that protects the environment and acts to slow climate change. He will take money from workers to subsidise billionaires.

   It will take a short while for the effects to be obvious to people at large. Then, I intend to walk around in a T shirt advertising: "Don't blame me, I voted Greens."

   I did. And I am happy to say that Adam Bandt, the only Green member of the lower house, got reelected. All three Greens senators who stood for reelection are back, with one additional one. So, now there are 11 Greens in the Senate.

   Unfortunately, there is also a collection of oddballs. Who knows how they will handle the responsibility of participating in the governance of a nation.


A drawing by Jill Redwood
Two calls to action from Bill Sosinsky
Siberia, The Newest Hot Spot by Andrew Breiner
Our sustainability crisis didn’t start and doesn’t stop at climate change by Steb Fisher

   Jill Redwood and I have known each other, and been comrades for conservation, since 1984. She drew this pic in response to a comment I made on her Facebook page. The background is that the (so-called) Liberal government of my state, Victoria, is subsidising the clearfelling and woodchipping of the forests, so that taxpayers are actually paying for the destruction of our environment. We can expect the same nationally.

Two calls to action
from Bill Sosinsky

1. Education the answer?

   To all my friends and associates who are concerned about our planet and our children’s future,

   What would happen if we suddenly made specific education and skills training that supported sustainable economic development and environmental stewardship available to everyone, everywhere?

   What effect would it have on our ability to re-establish a sustainable balance back to our planet?

   By the year 2050 our global food chain will have completely collapsed. What are you doing about it?

2. Water

   To all of you who are concerned about our planet and our children’s future,

   Have you ever been really thirsty? So thirsty that you’re nauseous and your body starts to cramp up uncontrollably?

   By 2025 65% of the world’s population will be living in areas that have inadequate or unsafe potable water reserves. We are on the verge of a global water crisis that will eventually affect the lives of every human being on earth.

   Who will show them how to manage their precious resources so they don’t die needlessly from thirst or expire due to illness as a result of drinking polluted water sources?

   What are you doing about it?

   "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." Martin Luther King, Jr.

   We need to speak with one united voice. We need our best minds and strongest hearts working together. We need you to actively fight with us to save our future. If all of us who want to change the future stamped our feet on the ground at the same moment, we could shake the world. Let’s wake up the sleeping masses!

Please join our effort,
Bill Sosinsky
Founder and Director of Energime University.

Siberia, The Newest Hot Spot
by Andrew Breiner

   It hasn’t been a typical summer in Siberia. High temperatures for this time of year are usually in the mid-to-low 60s Fahrenheit, but this July they hit 90 degrees, and didn’t drop much below a high of 80 until just this week. Meanwhile, potentially record-breaking wildfires continue to rage, with over 22,200 acres of active burning.

   The Siberian Times emphasized the lighter side of the heat wave, with photos of young people playing beach volleyball in swimsuits, a rare sight in Novosibirsk.

   But high temperatures are becoming more frequent, and they are an important factor in Siberia’s historic fires. And although the whole planet is warming, Russia has seen it happen particularly quickly, “about .51°C per decade compared to about .17°C globally,” according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. Even Verkhoyansk, a contender for coldest continuously-inhabited city in the world, posted an 82 degree day as recently as July 30.

   Some burning is typical for Siberia's wildfire season, but 2013 is approaching 2012's record of 74 million total acres burned. The years 2000 to 2008 averaged only 50 million acres burned each year. Fires are burning further north than usual as well, into the dense evergreen forest known as the taiga that usually remains safe from fire. Smoke was heavy enough to close airports in the cities of Omsk and Tomsk, and blanket the cities in smog.

   Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev set out on a trip to Siberia to see the firefighting first-hand. "The wildfire situation is abnormal," he said. "We have not had such a situation for decades." His remarks came amidst criticism from RT that the burning has been aggravated by large cuts to forest management and firefighting.

   Siberia's heat wave and fires join a host of other extreme weather events across the globe this summer. The U.S. alone has seen deadly heat waves, record high temperatures in Alaska, prolonged and severe drought, and the unprecedented burning of the American west.


Andrew Breiner is the Social Media Reporter for ThinkProgress. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, he worked with a progressive media-consulting firm and, before that, an international development foundation. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, Andrew graduated with a B.A. in politics and journalism from New York University in 2010.

This new development is important for several reasons:

  1. 25% of the great Eurasian landmass has been permanently frozen, with the more southern regions such as the taiga thawing on the surface each summer, but with permafrost beneath. With increasing warmth in the area, the permafrost is melting deeper and deeper, releasing enormous amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  2. The forest fires add to the heat to increase the melting of the permafrost.
  3. Soot from the fires settles on ice and snow to the north, increasing the rate of melting. This then exposes more land and sea surface. Water and soil absorb more radiation, speeding the melt.
  4. This in turn leads to the release of more methane, from the sea bottom and land.

   The effects are global, not local to Siberia. This affects YOU, personally.

Our sustainability crisis didn’t start and doesn’t stop at climate change
by Steb Fisher

   What would happen to the world if, with the snap of our fingers, we shifted all our energy supplies to renewable sources overnight? You might be surprised at the answer: not much, at least for biodiversity and ecosystems.

   Certainly, it might solve the climate problem, but I have canvassed this question in a number of different places, and the answers usually converge on this: we would still wreck Earth’s ecosystems. And what’s more, we’d still wreck them on a timescale similar to the trajectory that we’re on already.

   The reason is that climate change is a problem, not the problem. At the moment much of the focus is on climate and there’s no doubt this is a problem that requires emergency action now to see if we can avoid the worst of the tipping points. But there are many "showstoppers," any and all of which can bring humanity and biodiversity to a sticky end.

   Without biodiversity in all its forms, which creates the complex web of interrelated systems that hold the biosphere in homeostasis, things that we take for granted such as temperature, the level of oxygen in the atmosphere or the even concentration of salt in the sea, will no longer support the life we know.

   Something other than climate change is driving the current mass extinction...

Read on at The Conversation. It is well worth doing so, and I agree with Steb on every one of his points. Steb Fisher is a fellow member of Transform Australia. He lectures on environment and sustainability at Monash University.

Good news

Metal roofs: a lesson from the true poverty experts by Michael
Rubbish recycled into sustainable building
Bringing Back the Night: A Fight Against Light Pollution by Paul Bogard
Indian Farmers Growing Record Yields With No GMO Crops or Pesticides

Metal roofs: a lesson from the true poverty experts
by Michael

   I spent last week in Rarieda Province Kenya, where I received a lesson in development from the poor themselves. Before the trip, we knew from our data that a meaningful fraction of our recipients spend a portion of their cash on housing improvements, and that the most common purchase in this category has been metal roofing (typically to replace thatch). To me, a new roof seemed like curious purchase. After all, I'm not aware of any non-profit dedicated to providing metal roofing. Like many, I wondered why this was such a popular choice. What was the logic behind this decision? Was this transformative, or just a form of conspicuous consumption? So I asked, and learned. This is what I found out...

   In short, in Kenya, a metal roof is much more than a luxury item or a status symbol. It can be a solution to multiple problems, most of which we in the developed world will never experience ourselves. I was thoroughly impressed by the practical benefits of metal roofing, but nothing made a deeper impression on me than seeing the pride, dignity, and security that recipients felt in their safer, more comfortable homes. One cash transfer recipient's wife had left him the last time his roof collapsed; when he purchased a new roof, they were reunited. When asked how the cash transfer and home improvements had affected his life, he replied, "I feel human again."

   Of course, a metal roof is not the solution to every poor person's problems. What works in one village may not work in another. That is why cash transfers are so effective. By giving money directly to the poor, we give them the freedom to assess and address their own unique challenges, and we respect them enough to trust that they have more expertise in living their own lives than we do.

Rubbish recycled into sustainable building

   A Taiwanese company, Miniwiz, has designed a Nike store to be built in Shanghai, China, with major structural components made of recycled stuff such as aluminium cans, plastic water bottles, CDs and DVDs.

   They have already used the techniques in a building in Taiwan, the EcoARK Pavilion in Taipei. There are plans to seek more projects in China and the USA.

From Triple Pundit.

Bringing Back the Night: A Fight Against Light Pollution
by Paul Bogard

   As evidence mounts that excessive use of light is harming wildlife and adversely affecting human health, new initiatives in France and elsewhere are seeking to turn down the lights that flood an ever-growing part of the planet.

   Last month, France -- including the City of Light -- grew darker late at night as one of the world's most comprehensive lighting ordinances went into effect.

   From 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., shop lights are being turned off, and lights inside office buildings must be extinguished within an hour of workers leaving the premises. The lighting on France's building facades cannot be turned on before sunset. Over the next two years, regulations restricting lighting on billboards will go into effect. These rules are designed to eventually cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, save the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of 750,000 households, and slash the country's overall energy bill by 200 million Euros ($266 million).

   But no less a motivation, says France's Environment Ministry, is to "reduce the print of artificial lighting on the nocturnal environment" -- a powerful acknowledgement that excessive use of lighting in many parts of the world is endangering our health and the health of the ecosystems on which we rely. The good news, however, is that light pollution is readily within our grasp to control.

   Until recently, efforts to restrain our use of light have been primarily in response to the astronomical light pollution erasing starry nights. But researchers are increasingly focusing on the impacts of so-called ecological light pollution, warning that disrupting these natural patterns of light and dark, and thus the structures and functions of ecosystems, is having profound impacts.

   The problem is worsening as China, India, Brazil, and numerous other countries are becoming increasingly affluent and urbanized. Satellite views of Earth at night show vast areas of North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia glowing white, with only the world's remotest regions -- Siberia, the Tibetan plateau, the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, and the Australian outback -- still cloaked in darkness. Some countries, such as Britain, and some U.S. states -- including Connecticut and California -- have enacted regulations to reduce light pollution, but most nations and cities still do little to dial down the excessive use of light.

   Technological advances such as LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can improve our ability to reduce and better regulate lighting, but these same new lights may actually make things worse because they contain heavy doses of a "blue-rich" white light that is especially disruptive to circadian rhythms.

   Scientists are investigating new ways to provide society with the lighting it demands for security, commerce, and aesthetics, while greatly reducing the flood of light that is increasingly interfering with human health and the ability of many creatures to function. One research group funded by the German government -- Verlust der Nacht, or Loss of Night -- is coordinating numerous studies on light pollution, ranging from research into the socio-political challenges of cutting light pollution in the Berlin metropolitan area to the effects of light pollution on nocturnal mammals.

Paul Bogard is author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light and editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark. A native Minnesotan, he is an assistant professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he teaches creative writing and environmental literature.

Yale University.

Indian Farmers Growing Record Yields With No GMO Crops or Pesticides

   Contrary to claims by Monsanto and government conspirators, we can indeed meet the world's hunger without the use of genetically modified seed and manufactured chemicals. Bumper crops of rice, potatoes, and wheat are being grown in India using methods of Agroecology.

   Agroecology is a dynamic agricultural approach that uses scientific information and local knowledge to produce practical methods that are low-cost and ecologically sound. This is quite a contrast to the "one size fits all" approach of GMO crops and chemical inputs being peddled by Monsanto and friends.

   A particular kind of agroecology called System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is being applied in India to produce the record-setting yields.

   SRI was developed in the 1980s in Madagascar by Fr. Henri de Laulanie, S.J. He sought to improve their agricultural systems without being dependent on external inputs, as poverty was a widespread problem. Fr. Laulanié established a non-governmental organization that began working with the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development in 1994.

   Now, SRI "is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world's 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them."

   SRI is basically a change in the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients for irrigated rice. Seedlings are planted at a younger stage and spaced farther apart to encourage greater root and canopy growth and to increase yield per plant. These principles have more recently been applied to other crops like wheat, sugar cane, and millet, where it is known as System of Crop Intensification (SCI).

   Water is carefully managed and applied at precise stages. Organic matter such as composted manure is routinely introduced to maintain tilth and microbial development. Even the process of weeding contributes to soil improvements. A simple rotary hoe used at certain times puts decomposed weeds back into the soil, aerates the soil, and stimulates root growth by root pruning.

   It is basically using resources more wisely. SRI and SCI offer a long-term, sustainable future of agriculture for no extra cost, instead of patented GMO seeds and proprietary chemicals to enslave farmers in debt.

   "Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more. This is revolutionary," said Dr Surendra Chaurassa from Bihar's agriculture ministry. "I did not believe it to start with, but now I think it can potentially change the way everyone farms. I would want every state to promote it. If we get 30-40% increase in yields, that is more than enough to recommend it."

   Movements are growing around the world to embrace sustainable, efficient, and localized systems of agriculture. There is growing resistance to the efforts of Monsanto, western governments, and billionaire bankrollers to shove GMO crops down the world's throat. The realities of local economies and the increasing knowledge of informed citizens will overcome the GMO juggernaut.


Deeper Issues

How the creative mind works by Michael Michalko

How the creative mind works
by Michael Michalko

Michael Michalko has a long and growing list of essays on creativity. I find them very illuminating, so have subscribed to his email service. You can find his archives at Although I have his permission to reproduce his essays, they are typically too long for Bobbing Around. Here is the start of a recent one: How the Creative Mind Works.

   The Rockefeller University physicist, Heinz Pagels, in his book The Cosmic Code, wrote that quantum physics is a kind of code that interconnects everything in the universe. There are, for example, remarkable similarities between the mysteries of how our creative mind works and what quantum physicists have observed in their studies of the universe. Thoughts in our subconscious minds behave remarkably like subatomic particles in quantum physics which simultaneously exist and don’t exist until observed and eventually collapse into what physicists call “a collapse of the wave function.” This may be the same mental process that creates the “Aha” experience or divine inspiration that creative thinkers report.

   One of the discoveries of quantum mechanics is that something can simultaneously exist and not exist; if a particle is capable of moving along several different paths, or existing in several different states, the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics allows it to travel along all paths and exist in all possible states simultaneously. However, if the particle happens to be measured by some means, its path or state is no longer uncertain. The simple act of measurement instantly forces it into just one path or state. It is as if the physical world wants to explore many alternative pathways before collapsing into a settled state by the interaction of an observer.

   An example in physics is Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that demonstrated that light can be seen as a wave or as a particle depending upon the interaction of the observer. Renowned physicist, David Bohm, suggested parallels between this activity of quantum physics with subatomic particles and how the creative mind processes thought.

The Mind is Like the Universe

   The mind is like the universe. You have billions of bits of thoughts, observations, and information floating around in your conscious and subconscious mind, totally unobserved, with each bit presenting a multitude of possibilities which evolve and change over time. These thoughts are in multiple states such as words, phrases, metaphors, images, feelings, dreams, symbols, abstractions, voices, and so on. Particles of thought pop up out of nothingness and become entangled with other thoughts influencing each other instantaneously.

   Just as subatomic particles do not exist unless observed, your subconscious thoughts do not exist until observed. In other words, there is no thought independent of you, the observer. When you are brainstorming for ideas and have a thought, the value of that thought depends upon how you interact with it. If you are an analytical thinker and automatically classify thoughts as irrelevant or unrelated, you are crippling your potential for creative ideas and solutions.

   We are educated to be critical, judgmental, logical thinkers and to instantly evaluate and judge thoughts based on our past experiences. If there is any ambiguity, the judgment is invariably negative and the thought dissipates back into nothingness. The ordinary mind has no tolerance for ambiguity because it is conditioned to simplify the complexities of life. We are taught to be exclusionary thinkers, which means we exclude anything that is not immediately related to our subject. If there is any ambiguity, the average person will invariably censor it and the thought dissipates back into nothingness. This exclusionary way of thinking is how we lost our natural capacity to spontaneously generate ideas.

   This is why the average person produces only a handful of ideas when brainstorming, whereas, a creative genius will produce great quantities of ideas. Thomas Edison, for example, created 3000 different ideas for a lighting system before he stepped back to evaluate them for practicality and profitability. All geniuses produce great quantities of ideas because they uncritically search for all possible alternatives. If you ask the average person to find a needle in a haystack, he or she will stop when they find a needle. Creative thinkers, on the other hand, will go through the entire haystack looking for all the possible needles.

   You give value to your thoughts when you interact with them and accept them uncritically. Once observed and accepted, thoughts become loose and move freely around in your subconscious mind. The more work you put into thinking about a problem, the more thoughts and bits of information you set in random motion. Your subconscious mind never rests. When you quit thinking about the subject, your thoughts keep colliding, combining, recombining and making associations. Eventually, bits of thoughts and information will become entangled and create a novel idea which will bubble up into your consciousness when you least expect it.

   Charles Darwin’s richness of imagination was equaled only by his willingness to consider what others did not consider worthwhile. His colleagues would compare new ideas and theories with their existing patterns of experience. If the ideas didn’t fit, they would reject them out of hand. Conversely, Darwin would consider all ideas and theories to see where they led. Darwin’s colleagues called him a fool and his work the experiments of a fool. His willingness not to judge what others called fool’s experiments filled his subconscious mind with billions of colliding thoughts that eventually led to his epiphany about biological evolution.

Read on; you’re about halfway.

   Michael Michalko is a highly-acclaimed creativity expert and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius), and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.


What is a counselling psychologist anyway?
Acne has ruined my life

What is a counselling psychologist anyway?

   Well, it’s what I have been for many years, although I am about to stop.

   In Australia, there are 9 "endorsed areas of practice" (stupid term, there because it would cost the government more to call them specialties and register each one separately). About 20 years ago, a small group of members of one of these, clinical psychology, decided to do some guerrilla marketing. Working very cleverly, they branded this one area as if it was different and better than the others. Their success has been spectacular, to the point that now some government instrumentalities will only accept a report from a clinical psychologist (although the newest registered psychologist with no "endorsed area of practice" will be competent to do so if s/he has gained registration). Other government organisations only refer to clinical psychologists. Medicare, which is the main source of funding, and several other services, pay clinical psychologists more for the same work.

   It goes even beyond this. A person had a bicycle accident. The report specified that he was a clinical psychologist. Had it been me, it would have stated "psychologist," not "counselling psychologist."

   This discrimination is peculiar to Australia. Recently, the part of the American Psychological Association dealing with counseling psychology (Division 17) has posted an excellent essay titled What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a counseling psychologist? Their words should help Australians to dispel the myth of the superiority of clinical psychology.

Acne has ruined my life

Hi there, so I think I have depression. I don't actually know if i do or not, but sometimes no matter how hard i try, i can't enjoy life. This is mostly cause of loneliness, i can't seem to connect with people, so ultimately, i don't really have friends. I have people that i hang out with at school, but i'm nearly always the one who has to start a conversation with them, and it usually doesn't last very long. If i take a day off school no one asks where i was, and when i actually enter a room, it's very rare that someone will acknowledge me. I play sports, rugby and softball, and i kinda feel like i'm not really included in either team. softball, because my team isn't competitive, and i get constantly annoyed if we lose a game, and it seems to be more of a social thing to most of them. rugby, because i'm one of the outside players, i don't do a whole lot in the team, and people kind of forget about me. another problem is my mental well being. I don't really like myself, i have bad acne scars that can't really get treated as far as i know, and it seems like no matter what i do, they won't go away. i continually get paranoid as i think they are the reason people don't really talk to me and look at them constantly. I have a deep lack of motivation to do practically anything. The last time i even kissed a girl was three years ago, and it doesn't seem like i'll even get that far anytime soon. I really need some form of advice cause it's starting to feel like my life's crumbling down around me, i don't know why cause it's technically not really that bad, but i'm just sick of it. I just don't really wanna live it anymore.

Dear Denis,

   I have a sort of adopted daughter, who is a lovely young woman. She is married to a guy with acne scars on his face, and she loves him. They have 3 children together, and a really nice relationship.

   It is quite possible that the problems you have described so well are because of the acne. Not because it scarred your face, but because of how you feel about the scars. If you could accept your face the way it is, if it didn't bother you, then it wouldn't bother anyone else either.

   Look around you. Most people have some unattractive feature. Some have uneven teeth, or go bald very young, or their nose is too long or too short... Some people with such features react to them negatively, and in turn others react to them negatively. Other people with the same thing don't find it a problem. You need to move from the first camp to the second.

   Because you have been feeling bad about yourself, a pattern has been established in which people tend to ignore you, don't miss you when you are absent. You tend to be on the outer rims.

   One way to change this is to become excellent at something. Some people go into amateur theatricals, or playing music, or studying hard so they get excellent academic results. You could try writing, one of the visual arts, photography, working with your hands with timber or metal or machines. Find yourself something to become passionate about, and invest your energy into that. This can mean that you can be useful to others, be of service, and be admired for your accomplishments. What's more, such activities are antidepressants. If you become a mad-keen mechanic, life will be good while you're fixing a car. If you gain an expertise on the birds of New Zealand, going out into the countryside for birdwatching will be a time of joy. If you become good at playing a saxophone, your practice times will be holidays from misery.

   You would gain major benefits from doing one of the eastern martial arts. These are not just ways of fighting, not just physical skills, but are training in inner strength. Once you become competent, you will feel powerful, and this can give you peace and self-confidence.

   One more resource is therapy from a psychologist. There may be a school counsellor, or your family might fund it for you. A few sessions could make a huge difference in your life.
Have a good life (you can),

   I know you sent this to me over four months ago, but everything you say makes perfect sense. i'd like you to know my lifes a fair bit better now, I've stopped feeling so sorry for myself. everyone has their problems, and I just thought my physical appearance was my problem. It's not, and thank you for your advice



Rethinking Red Wine by Debbie Hampton

Rethinking Red Wine
by Debbie Hampton

   We've been told for some years now that red wine has heart benefits and may even extend a healthy life if drank in moderation, because of the ingredient resveratrol. This information justified people to have a glass of red wine (or two or three) feeling as if they were doing something good for themselves. Not so fast.

   Dr. Dipak K. Das, who conducted the research, culminating in 2007 at The University of Connecticut, that had all the nightly news programs and medical journals proclaiming the health benefits of red wine, has been found guilty of 145 acts of data fabrication.

   Turns out that an anonymous allegation of "research irregularities" led to a three year internal investigation of Dr. Das' lab which resulted in a 60,000 page report concluding the falsification of data.

   In an article published by CBS news on their website, Red wine no fountain of youth after all? Dr. Richard A. Miller, professor of pathology at the University of Michigan, told CBS News of red wine, "If it is good for you, it's almost certainly not because of the resveratrol. People who bought the story for the last 10 years have been fooled."

   Dr. Marie Pasinski, staff neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty member of Harvard Medical School, says, in her book Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You, that the studies supporting the claim that red wine is good for your heart and brain were "observational," having been conducted through self-reported questionnaires which may have been severely flawed. She concluded this before and separately from the accounts of fabrication noted above. About the resveratol studies, she says "Although studies did show mice that were given hefty doses of resveratrol were healthier and lived longer, an article in the New York Times pointed out that the average 150-pound person would need to drink 750 to 1,500 bottles of red wine a day in order to get the equivalent beneficial dose!"

   She concludes that drinking alcohol, even in moderation, is unhealthy. Alcohol is a known neurotoxin. In excess, alcohol causes damage throughout the nervous system and kills brain cells, in particular the important memory areas. Alcohol may be even more damaging in the developing brains of teenagers who tend binge drink. I sure killed a few brain cells in my college days.

   She points out that, for women, even low to moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancers of the breast, liver, mouth, throat, and esophagus. She states that alcohol is not part of a brain smart diet. Period. "Alcohol is not good for us, even in small amounts."

Debbie Hampton suffered what could have been fatal brain injury. Fortunately, she knew that the brain is "plastic," that is, can be changed again. Using several techniques, she has regained her intelligence, and most of the abilities we take for granted. "Because underlying belief systems and the perceptual foundation upon which I’d built my reality withered away along with brain cells, I got to start with a clean slate, so to speak. By consciously working with and altering my thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, I transformed my world which, in turn, changed my physical brain and its default mode of operation."


The dossier: who is this character?
Writing Believable Characters by Lorna Collins
Is Your Main Character's Head Filled with Lies? by Joan Y. Edwards

The dossier: who is this character?


   The dossier is a useful tool for a novelist. It can be entirely in your head, but if there are lots of characters, you may find it essential to write down the relevant details for each. That helps prevent glitches like Susie's son changing from Jim to John, or Mr Cartwright's occupation being posthole digger in chapter 5, and postman in chapter 25.

   How you organise this material is up to you. I often have a set of notes at the start of the novel, to be deleted upon completion (or when the character is no longer relevant).

   What goes into the dossier? Everything you as author know about the person. As more details emerge, you can add them.

   You can see many examples of dossiers in published novels. A new character enters, and the author gives an instant summary of the details that will be relevant to the story. Here is an example:

   This scene is clearly from Martin's point of view (POV). That is, in order to BE in the story, I as reader need to create the temporary illusion that I am Martin. The author has created a shady accountant for me to employ for some nefarious purpose, and I (Martin) am just meeting him for the first time.

   So, how do I know that he is "an overworked accountant with immense experience but questionable morals?"

   My point is: the AUTHOR needs Harold's dossier in order to write about him. The character Martin has no access to this dossier. Therefore, to stay within Martin's POV, the author must avoid this statement. Giving Harold's physical appearance is fine, because Martin can see that.

   Here is a second example:

   If you were terrified, expecting to be shot this instant, would you be thinking about your age, your past history of helpfulness and hardships, even the many pains of your body? Of course not. You would be in that present moment, entirely focussed on the current emergency. Genevieve will feel the same way. She is completely unlikely to be concerned with her body build or eye colour, or what her eyes might look like to someone else.

   So, reporting a new character's dossier is a bad thing. It is an info dump, an author intrusion, and should be treated by amputation.

   When a new person comes into your life, you immediately find out a few things: gender, approximate age, physical appearance, perhaps name, tone of voice, your automatic emotional reaction to this new acquaintance. Say Harry goes on a blind date, and meets Salicia. She is not going to hand him her CV, or biography, or her scores on various psychological tests. He will find out about her in dribs and drabs, as the occasion arises.

   This is how it should happen with people in a book too.

Writing Believable Characters
by Lorna Collins

   At one of our writing group meetings a couple of years ago, a member suggested one of our characters could do a particular action. Larry and I responded at the same time . "Oh, no. She'd never do that." She laughed and said, "You talk about your characters as if they are real," to which I replied," Of course they're real. If they aren't real to us, how can we expect our readers to believe they're living breathing people?"

   I've been thinking a lot about how we create realistic and believable characters, and I'll share a few of our methods with you.

   When we initially discuss a story we want to write, we create character sketches for the major ones. The protagonist is better defined than the more minor characters, but we need to know some of the following about those folks we'll be spending time with during the writing of the book.


   Young people growing up today speak differently from those who grew up in the '60s or '70s or '80s. And those from earlier periods had different speech patterns as well. What was happening in the world during their early years? Was the country at war? In what country is the story set? If in the US, what state, town, city? The life experiences of the characters will be influenced by all of these.


   A child raised without parents will have a different world view than one raised by a single parent. And that child will see the world differently than one raised with both parents.

   Was the family rich or poor? What was their ethnicity, and what were their family rituals? Was it a happy home or a dysfunctional one? Was the person abused in any way as a child? How large was the family? Were drugs and/or alcohol used to excess in the family? Where in the country did the child grow up? Small towns are different from suburbs are different from large cities.

   We are all molded by our early years, and they provide motivation for the rest of our lives.


   Lots of studies of the effect of birth order on behavior and personality have been done over the years. The order in which one arrived in the family has a great influence on their overall personality.

   This came home to me when we had finished our first romance anthology, Snowflake Secrets. It's the story of four little girls in the years between 1958 and 2007. The novellas in the book were written by four different writers. Yet when I assembled the complete manuscript, I was struck by how accurately each of the four displayed the personality traits most commonly associated with their birth order!


   Did they go to college or not? Did they marry young, or older, or not at all. Did they have children, and when? Are they divorced, widowed, single? What was their career choice? How did that affect their lifestyle?


   This is very important. Does the heroine twirl her hair or bite her lip? Does the hero raise his eyebrows or frown? Does someone tap their foot or fingers? How do they react to other people? Do they become quiet or do they become aggressive?


   You have to know this about each and every main character in the book so you know how they will react when you place them in danger or under stress. And you need to know what they have to lose and how important it is to them.


   What is the rhythm of their speech? Their area of origin will dictate this to some extent, but everyone has a different speech pattern. What are their favorite words? Do they have expressions they repeat?

   When we get the basics defined, we begin to note other characteristics as we write. The characters may end up very different than we thought they would, but we have a starting point. As we get to know them better, we discover additional minor nuances. Each of them must be distinctly different or the reader won't believe in them.


   This past week we had to let several of the major characters in our current project, The Memory Keeper, die. As is our habit, we began to read the finished chapter aloud to each other. And we couldn't get through it. I was sobbing and Larry was choking. In short, we were a mess. We had become so close to these people we felt their loss as acutely as their family members.

Ghost Writer, I couldn't figure out why I just couldn't finish the manuscript. It finally dawned on me! I didn't want to let the ghost go! He had no other story to tell, so when this book was completed, I'd never see him again. When I got the edits back from the publisher and reached that chapter, I wept again.

   After we finished Snowflake Secrets, we took the final manuscript to the house of the hostess of our writing group to read it through for her. She had only heard it in bits and pieces. When we got to the last chapter, however, none of us could get all the way through. Larry started until he choked up. Then Luanna read a while. I had to finish it, and I wasn't doing too well, either. But Martha, our hostess, was sobbing. And in reality, that was the precise response we wanted our readers to share.

Lorna Collins is the author or co-author of ten published books. She writes alone and also with her husband, Larry K. Collins. Learn more about her on their website:

Is Your Main Character's Head Filled with Lies?
by Joan Y. Edwards

   Like all human beings, your character's beliefs determine his opinion of his experiences and sometimes leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. Is your main character's head filled with any of these beliefs? They are all lies, unless your character makes them true.

  1. I am poor.
  2. I am powerless. I can't get a job, gain respect, or get a date.
  3. I don't have enough…time, money, health, friends, gasoline, or groceries.
  4. I always get sick at Christmas.
  5. I'll never be able to pass that test.
  6. My grandfather died when he was 50. My father died when he was 50. I'll die before I am 50.
  7. Nobody in my family has ever been anything but a farmer. I must be a farmer, too.
  8. Rich people don't die in hospitals.
  9. All money is evil.
  10. If I don't measure up, they won't let me in the group.
  11. I can't do this by myself.
  12. If I don't have a spouse, I'm worthless.
  13. I'll never be as popular as Susie Bell.
  14. Husbands never get along with their mothers-in-law.
  15. Life is over at 40.
  16. Everyone who lives in that neighborhood is bad to the bone.
  17. If you're not a member of that club, you don't count.
  18. I am afraid of the dark.

   If you believe you are poor and things will never change, you will remain poor. The more you say you are poor, the poorer you will be. The same with the other beliefs listed. They can all be lies, depending on the attitude and focus of the person who believes them. They can also be truth. Two different people can have the exact same experience and have different reactions. Different beliefs cause different reactions.

   I think it would be good to see what beliefs you think sparked a reaction in a character that you've already put in your story. You can show what happens to make him change his belief. It is possible that instead of going from negative to positive, your character's beliefs could go from positive to negative. He used to believe that he could trust any member of his family until his nephew didn't pay him back the money he owed.

   One or more of these beliefs could be the main theme of your story. Sometimes the belief, either positive or negative, is why you decided to write this story. Beliefs determine actions and reactions.

   There are three questions for a writer:

  1. What do I want the readers to learn from reading my story?
  2. What does the main character learn from being in my story?
  3. Do the main character's beliefs at the beginning of the story change? When his beliefs change, his behavior will change. If there is no change, there is no story. To get a different action or reaction, change the beliefs. If you change the beliefs, you'll get a different story.

   I hope that, reading the 18 possible beliefs out of thousands of possibilities, you will discover the ones that energize your story and make it a best seller. If you discover a belief that needs changing in your life, I hope you discover the courage, resources, and wisdom to change it.

Joan runs Never Give Up, a very popular blog for writers.

What my friends want you to know

Married Couple Keeps Up with the Digital Revolution from Carolyn
Balance your Life in 7 Steps plus 15 FREE Gifts! by Robin Marvel
Borderlands Press writers' bootcamp
Support prostate cancer research in September
New film on the health costs of power
Ice ride, Sunday 15th September

Married Couple Keeps Up with the Digital Revolution
from Carolyn


Couple Wins Global Ebook Awards: Wife for Poetry, Husband for Nonfiction

    The digital revolution isn’t just for youngsters anymore.

   Author Lance Johnson and veteran poet and writer of fiction Carolyn Howard-Johnson both now have books that sport Global Ebook Awards. Announced this week, What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More by Lance Johnson won the silver awards in the multi-cultural nonfiction category. Carolyn’s poetry chapbook Deeper Into the Pond: A Celebration of Femininity, coauthored with Magdalena Ball, was a bronze winner in the poetry division.

   The Global Ebook Awards both honor and bring attention to the future of book publishing: ebooks. Now in its third year, the Awards are in 72 specific categories. They are open to all publishers large and small so that a winner is the best in its category, not just the best of small or regionally-published ebooks but global winners. Most ebooks are also available as printed books. See

   The Johnsons, married 55 years, share an interest in both writing and acting. Between of them they have done commercials for names like Apple, Time-Life, Johnson & Johnson, and Lenscrafters. Lance has also appeared in plays in Los Angeles and in film and on TV. What Foreigners Need To Know About America was recently given to Fulbright foreign student attendees by a US university. About 300 universities and colleges have the book for their international students. Carolyn is known for her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and retailers as well as fiction and poetry.

   Learn more about Lance and his book at

   Learn more about Carolyn’s poetry at

   Learn more about Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards at

   Both Carolyn’s and Lance’s books and ebooks are available in the US and worldwide on and at university and fine bookstores like Vroman’s in Pasadena, CA.

Balance your Life in 7 Steps plus 15 FREE Gifts!
by Robin Marvel

   Are you ready to rock the boat, dive in and regain your passion for life? If your answer is yes then Life Check: 7 Steps to Balance Your Life! is the book for you. Your how-to book on ways to create and live a successful, motivated and passionate life.

   at Barnes and Noble

   at Amazon

   Life Check: 7 Steps to Balance Your Life! provides simple, effective ways to balance your life. Encouraging you to stop asking "what if?" and start living the life you have imagined. Freeing yourself from the mundane routine of life by providing life tools that will get you rocking the boat, diving in and finding your passion for being alive.

   As a special bonus for those that purchase Life Check: 7 Steps to Balance Your Life!we are including 15 FREE gifts. These gifts include motivating, inspiring ebooks, hypnosis, divine truth report and much more. Head over to to check them out and read what people are saying about the book.

   If you are willing to commit yourself to learning the tools presented in this book, you will discover that YOU have the power to change your life, YOU have the power to live in a passionate, motivated, positive way that YOU control. By adding the steps from Life Check into your daily living you will see an amazing improvement in all areas. There will be no more waiting for the door to open when you have the key safely tucked away in your pocket.

Borderlands Press writers' bootcamp

   The 10th writers' bootcamp offered by Borderlands Press will be

   On January 24-26, 2014

   At Towson University Marriott Conference Hotel 10 West Burke Avenue, Towson, Maryland 21204

   For details, go to

Support prostate cancer research in September

   Australian Prostate Cancer Research is again a beneficiary of the Blue September campaign in 2013. The campaign last year supported several of our exciting research programs including the soon to be released virtual clinical support program PROSTMATE, clinical trials, patient data management and in contributing to existing research in leading institutions.

   This September, we encourage you to participate in the campaign, with the knowledge that we as an organisation are putting the funds to the best use possible in supporting men with prostate cancer through vital research.

James Garland
Australian Prostate Cancer Research

New film on the health costs of power

   The Climate and Health Alliance is launching a new film on climate, coal and gas, and health: The Human Cost of Power, being launched in Melbourne on 18 September 2013.

   Screenings in other cities/towns to follow.

   See below for details of Melbourne event -- please share.

   Climate and Health Alliance and Public Health Association of Australia in conjunction with University of Melbourne Social Justice Initiative invite you to a

Preview Screening of the new short film:

The Human Cost of Power

How coal and unconventional gas are driving climate change and harming our health.

   This new short film produced by award winning science journalist Alexandra de Blas explores the health impacts associated with the massive expansion of coal and unconventional gas in Australia.

Event date: 18 September 2013
Event time: 6pm-7.30pm

Event location: Laby Theatre, Room L108, Physics South Building, Building No. 192, University of Melbourne (near corner of Elgin and Swanston Streets, Parkville campus).

   Tickets available at:

   With expert speakers including University of Melbourne researcher Dr Jeremy Moss, climate scientist Professor David Karoly, Friends of the Earth campaigner Cam Walker, and Dr Jacinta Morahan, Surf Coast Air Action.

Ice ride, Sunday 15th September

   On Sunday, September 15, 2013 we're organizing the biggest event in defense of the Arctic in history. In cities around the world, we're going to fill the streets with people riding bikes in support of the Arctic. We're planning some big surprises and will send you more information later on, but for now add it to your calendar.

   Click here to find out more, and sign up for the Ice Ride!

   Last month, when six young women took the world's breath away by climbing a skyscraper in protest against Shell drilling in the Arctic, they asked: "What will YOU do to save the Arctic?"

   This is your chance to answer that call, to speak out for the polar bears who have no voice of their own, to defend one of the world's last pristine sanctuaries from the ravages of dirty oil companies.

   Mid-September is usually a heartbreaking time for the Arctic, because the sea ice is melting in free fall, reaching new historic lows. But this year, we're going to mark it with a celebration instead. Our movement of millions has taken the first steps to protect this incredible place. We will continue fighting and growing -- and we will succeed.

   If you believe, like we do, that making a change in this world is still possible, then add your name to the Ice Ride. Let's show Shell and the whole world that we care about saving the Arctic, for all of us.

Book Reviews

Striking Back from Down Under reviewed by Michael Thal
Ascending Spiral reviewed by Christina St Clair
Ascending Spiral reviewed by Allen Currie
Ascending Spiral reviewed by Sara Van Dyck
Ascending Spiral reviewed by Connie Peck
Ascending Spiral reviewed by Jan Sikes
Ascending Spiral reviewed by Bob Gannaway

Striking Back from Down Under
reviewed by Michael Thal

   Striking Back from Down Under is a compilation of 24 short stories about bullies where the underdog wins. Author Bob Rich pulled together stories of various genres, from science fiction, western, to mystery, but in each instance the downtrodden dupes the bad guy.

   "Game Planet," for example, takes place on another world where its citizens can play the Game by entering the mind of a person on the planet Earth, which explains why Bill Clinton made the stupid mistake with Monica Lewinsky. "The Making of a Champion" shows David, a warrior from a far away land entering a town on horseback and teaching the townspeople about heroism and loyalty. In "Cruelty and Compassion," a cripple gets back at his tormentors through his art.

   Story after story, readers will be rooting for Rich's well developed underdogs to somehow end up on top. Each story is a lot of fun. Enjoy.

Michael Thal is the author of two young adult books: The Legend of Koolura and Goodbye Tchaikovsky. Read my review of this second book.

Ascending Spiral
reviewed by Christina St Clair

   This is an inclusive metaphysical book. Christian, New Age, Buddhist, and Psychological views are employed to give an important message which eventually leads to a strong emphasis on Conservationism. All are aimed at producing greater individual understanding and a better, safer, cleaner world for everyone.

   I applaud the author for his engaging story of Pip's lives, beginning in the present day where Pip is a counselor. The prologue was so engaging that it made me want to read more.

   Pip in one past life is an Irishman called Dermot fighting the tyranny of English oppressors. I got a real sense of Ireland and I liked Dermot even though his vengeance against the cruel invaders knew no end. I felt so sad at the abuse the "convicts" (including Dermot), transported to Australia suffered.

   Pip in another life is born again as an innocent woman, Amelia, who lives with an abusive husband. She is a very strong person in a winning story about Outback life which explores the struggles of powerlessness including the plight and wisdom of Aborigines.

   There are some other lives lived by Pip too, gems of creativity that explore other aspects of being both human and non-human.

   Pip, in each of his many lives that span the ages learns many lessons--from survival of the fittest to the need for speaking truth to power--on his journey to spiritual maturity. Reincarnation, it seems to me, is one way to understand suffering. I particularly liked the karmic idea that we reap what we sow but we get chances to experientially learn from our past and change ugly behaviors.

   The book is rich (forgive the pun) with wisdom and words of advice that resonate as true and are genuinely helpful. We really need to heed Bob Rich's words and emphasis on living simply, giving up lust for vengeance and power, learning to forgive, trusting the process of our, in this case, many lives, to become better developed people who contribute to the betterment of the All, which includes animals, insects, plants, people, the earth and other worlds.

   In the ending story we learn about Pip's journey in his current life. It is interesting, moving and as engaging as the beginning.

Christina St. Clair, award winning author, former shop-girl, chemist, and pastor, is currently a spiritual director, Reiki Master (don't read too much into the title master!), wife, animal lover, and writer. Ten Yen True, a novel co-authored with Amanda Armstrong, fulfilled the promise of mysticism, fun, healing, and hope.

Ascending Spiral
reviewed by Allen Currie

   I have never done a formal book review before, and I had to pick this one as my first. The novel may be read several ways. The first, of course, is as entertainment. In the first (of four) scenarios, Dermot the protagonist enters a life and death struggle against tyranny. Then Amelia, against another form of tyranny. And a plant-like alien life-form in a struggle for survival and survival as a species. Ultimately, thrilling as entertainment.

   A man might be described as being 'honourable', meaning true to his own values. Where humanity fails is in assuming your values exactly mirror 'my' values. They don't. Bob's theory (which I agree with by the way) is that we are the sum of our experiences and decisions in life. And we can consciously alter ourselves for the better. In a practical sense, there is often a conflict about what is 'good' or 'better'. Mankind tends to make decisions based on a short term definition of 'good', whereas the long term results are often devastating. Look to our pollution in pursuit of the 'good' life.

   In the end, my view is that this novel is a thinking person's novel. 'Thinking person' commonly does not sell well, although it sometimes creates a thinking revolution and often lasts for centuries.

   Highly recommended, but with a warning. The novel may be disturbing. (Not necessarily with the negative connotation usually associated with that word.)

Allen is so convinced that environmental catastrophe is around the corner that he has meticulously researched how to survive when technology collapses. He sent me this review shortly before leaving all forms of electricity behind. I agree with his interpretation of the evidence, and in the 1970s, I also was motivated to survive, whatever happened. Now, I think how long doesn't matter. How well does.

Ascending Spiral
reviewed by Sara van Dyck

   "The Ascending Spiral" takes the reader on a wild ride, across deep time and deep space, and then touches base in recent historical time and on our planet, including a long interlude on an Australian sheep station. It's not always clear how the characters relate to each other -- does Dermot the vengeful Irishman transmute into the lovely, sensitive Amelia? Not to mention the shift into plants that walk. But toward the conclusion Rich ties his varied characters together, showing how they flow into each other. This is a story of change, metamorphosis, and of growth. The spiral of this book coils around the belief that our sufferings on this planet are given to us so that we may learn and then teach others.

   And what causes this suffering? Greed is the short answer. Rich ends his book with a personal and heart-felt plea for us to start simply, on the planet that nourishes us, to create a sustainable and loving life together.

   One of my favorite episodes occurs as the Space Flower swoops through space, examining the planets it finds. It sees a planet, a nursery for souls, beautiful but "baffling." This planet has a water-oxygen sheath, which is toxic, beneath which might be some "bizarre little life form." The Space Flower needs to destroy these forms to supply fuel for its return journey -- and then our traveler wonders: could such beings have "feelings and emotions like real living beings?...Did they have any appreciation of beauty?...If I shortened their lives, would it make any difference?"

   How wonderful if we could see all the lives we touch from this perspective. The Space Flower learns the lesson which all of us Earthlings should learn: that no matter how alien it seems to us, each "little, short-lived thing was as valuable, as worthy of respect and care, as any of [its] People."

Sara's book The Boy Who Loved Ants: Edward O. Wilson is one of the successful applicants for my LiFE Award: Literature For Environment. She writes of herself: "A former teacher, I enjoy finding ways to interest children in nature. At times I have cared for various mini-pets, including spiders, ants, black beetles, a katydid, and lots of worms. I am grateful that Edward O. Wilson has helped many appreciate the importance of what he calls the 'little creatures that run the world.' My print publications include nature articles and children's books on biological control, bees, and electric eels."

Ascending Spiral
reviewed by Connie Peck

   Such a thought provoking story I have never read before. Do I believe in reincarnation? Hardly. As a Bible believing Christian I believe in one life, one death and the resurrection of the eternal soul.... And just what does that mean. As an open minded intellectual I humorously entertain thoughts of what or who I may have been, or might become in different lives because of something that has just happened to me.

   And the Question still begs for an answer, "Why am I here?"

   I chose this book partly from curiosity, partly from personal need, and partly from a drive I had no control over. As a person who focuses mainly on children's books or much lighter and predictable Westerns, I first found this book to be hard to read. But it was harder to put down. And now that I've turned that last page, it will be impossible to forget.

   I followed Pip through his life. I struggled through many of 'his' other lives, and when I gaze at the myriad of stars over the Texas plains at night I really do wonder how many others are looking down on me. "What is my purpose here?" I feel the struggle as life continues, and the surprise as I begin to realize that one soul has moved on to a new lesson. Then more surprise as I discover that the soul may be able to choose the lessons. "What could possibly be next?" I was driven almost to the point of stress as Pip's life became complex and confusing, the story bouncing from one time frame to another and back again. But, Isn't that how life goes as we mature, grow, and find success?

   I love the 'spiral' motif. It is motion, it is economy of motion. It can lift but it can also drill, or be a feather drifting lazily to settle in the shade of a willow tree. Do we spiral toward a more complex lifestyle or to a simpler one? Like Pip, I have choices. How can I know that each choice I make will result in peace of heart and mind for me and my children? And what about the temptation to choose wealth or just a tiny dab of celebrity? I pray that my choices will result in my being able to `pass' this lesson, but even more than that, that my choices will result in my children being able to also learn and pass their own lessons.

   Thank you, Bob, for your writing. And by the way, I've been a conservationist, and mostly off the grid, for a large part of my life. I now live in a tiny house and the solar panels are on the way. And, thankfully, just as with Pip, the 'taker' has become the 'giver', the 'destroyer' has become the builder', and I hope that the stubborn will soon learn enough to become the teacher.

Connie was born in Arizona, on an air force base in Tucson. However, she grew up traveling the entire USA, spending years not only in Arizona, but also in Washington, Texas, Georgia, and everywhere in between. She started riding and training horses at the tender age of eight and has competed in all types of Western events.

   As an adult Connie raised her children, obtained a teaching degree in science and reading, and continued to teach, ride, write, and do just about everything else. For now, she calls planet Earth her home and is currently camping in a pasture in Texas with her husband, a dog, and dozens of other animals where she is building a tiny house and learning to 'live off the grid'.

Ascending Spiral
reviewed by Jan Sikes

   Dr. Bob Rich has intricately woven together several lifetimes spanning 2,000 years with one common thread throughout this story. He brings the characters to life and has the reader on pins and needles. I am right there in the moment with Dermot as he slithers in the shadows along the fence line to take food to his captive people. My heart breaks for Amelia and the atrocities she suffers, all because of Dermot’s actions in a past life. I love how Dr. Rich intertwines all of the characters into different roles for each life story and clarifies the lessons to be learned.

   Not only is it a riveting and entertaining story, it has a profound view into the reason we are all here on planet earth. We have many lessons to learn and Earth seems to be the main school in the Universe. Dr. Rich portrays this in a unique and fascinating way.

   Even without a past interest in metaphysical and spiritual studies, I would have enjoyed this book. Absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it.

Jan Sikes, newly published author of Flowers and Stone, is not new to writing, having penned songs, poetry, screenplays and short stories. Her first novel is part of a trilogy of true life tales, with The Convict And The Rose soon to be released.

Ascending Spiral reviewed
by Bob Gannaway

   Although I have a rather eclectic reading range, from ‘who-dun-its’ to sci-fi to Cussler, I wasn’t sure what to expect in ‘Aspiring Spiral’.

   As you begin your journey through this novel, you can easily believe that you are reading an historical tale, and of a brutally torturous history, at that. Instead, Bob Rich leads you on a passage of understanding of the human condition quite like no other I have encountered.

   Using an insightfulness obviously gained from life’s experiences, Rich draws the reader into a deeper comprehension of the decisions we as a species have to face. He exposes the underlying selfishness of ourselves and our society and shows us how we need to deal with it... for our own sakes.

   Highly recommended.

Bob Gannaway is the husband of the senior journalist at my local newspaper, Mountain Views Mail. I gave her a review copy, but Bob was the one who read the book.


I want to be a tree

A bit of fun

Biological pest control

   Blin was bored beyond belief, sitting idly while the machine did its automatic scan. "Why must we do this, watch after watch?" It demanded.

   At Its own console, Daita said, as during many previous watches, "Because if something is found, a sentient reaction is required."

   "Oh yes, and when was the last time something was found?"

   "About three tours of duty ago."

   "Exactly! And--"

   Daita's machine sounded the alarm.

   The two of them inspected the information that rapidly appeared. Location 3548965# had a sick Being.

   Daita was on the communicator to the Captain while Blin monitored the details. It found the location, which was way out in the periphery of the Galaxy. The Being had an elevated temperature, and It was radiating energy in a strange way. "I think it's an infection of some kind," Blin said.

   The Captain entered and activated the remote sensor. The Being was sending out electromagnetic radiation with some sort of regular pattern, indicating sentience, but the coding was completely novel and strange. Interpreting it took a lot of work, but eventually the monitor screen showed pictures, and associated sounds came from the speakers.

   It appeared that this patterned radiation was not actually sent out by the Being, but by tiny organisms that crawled around on Its surface. The Captain expressed amazement. "Surely, an infectious agent cannot be sentient?"

   "If it is, how can we do the disinfection? We cannot kill anything sentient."

   "Glad you asked, Blin. Your task is to study how these tiny things multiply, and find a natural method of interrupting the pattern."

   If watching a machine doing its automatic task was boring, then watching the antics of these strange little organisms was worse. They were so caught up in their little lives! However, a pattern very quickly emerged. There were two varieties of the little pests. One individual of each kind needed to get in close intimate contact with one individual of the other, then the smaller type grew a bulge, and then hived off a tiny version of itself. This eventually grew into one of the two types of adults.

   Then Blin found the key. From some of the stories presented, it became clear that some humans, as the little things called themselves, refused to participate in the ritual that led to reproduction. Instead, they engaged in the same kind of activity with their own type. When things of the bigger variety did this they were called "gay," if the smaller, "lesbian."

   Satisfied, Blin reported to the Captain. "Respectability," It said, "all we need to do is to externally interfere in their transmissions, which are supposedly meant for their entertainment, but in fact are a form of mind control. Among their number are a few who determine the content of these transmissions, and by this means they rule all the others. We can influence them to change the stories. From now on, they will display their normal reproductive rituals as disgusting, something to be avoided, and convince them all to become gay and lesbian."

   The problem was solved. Within three generations of these short-lived beings, their population plummeted to a number sufficiently low that the Being's immune system could deal with them unaided.

I belong to a science fiction writers' group. There is a monthly contest. You send in a story of under 600 words. September's theme was humour, and the action had to be in space. This was my entry.

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