Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Out of the Night by German-Born Writer Jan Valtin Is An Amazing Book With A Well-Earned Cult Following


One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to find a local used bookstore, go in, prowl the shelves and hunt for treasure. I’m intrigued by big dusty books resting anonymously among the rows, seemingly forgotten.

Recently in such a hallowed venue I spotted a large midnight blue hardcover titled OUT OF THE NIGHT by JAN VALTIN. I flipped to the copyright page and saw it was published in 1941. It was 749 pages. Without looking closer to see what it might be about, I laid down three or four bucks, took it home and started to read.

I quickly discovered I had stumbled upon an extraordinary book!

Out of The Night is the autobiography of a German-born man who became communist spy for the Soviet Union.

At the end of World War I, Valtin was a boy of 14 just trying to get by in a country shattered by war. To say that times were tough after the ruination inflicted upon the land would be a vast understatement. All the basics of life were scarce – food, shelter, jobs, security. Valtin writes:

“I would awake hungry, and was still hungry when I went to sleep. Hunger wiped out the lines between adolescents and full-grown men. A sack of flower was worth more than a human life. When a fruit cart of a peasant from Vierlanden was turned over in the street and a middle-aged man tried to shoulder me aside in the scramble for winter apples, what else could I do but stand up and hit him in the face. I was in my fifteenth year.”

Germany was on its knees and the communists saw great opportunity to inculcate the defeated masses with Marxist philosophy.

Valtin found that working as a gopher and bicycle messenger boy for communist operators was a way to get along in the chaotic environment. His father, a torpedo man in the German navy, never returned home. His mother was unable to provide for him. The only future Valtin saw for himself was to -- somehow, some way -- ship out to sea. His goal was to hire on as a deck hand for a merchant ship or freighter, starting as the lowest grunt, and work his way up to captain.

But Valtin never broke loose from his connections made with the communists of his youth – and so he injects himself into a hair-raising career of ever-increasing party activity, scheming, manipulations and intrigues. He took on ever-more dangerous assignments, acting as a courier and spying on other German political factions, including the budding fascist movements.

What ensues for Valtine is a life of sizzling danger, international plotting and spy games. He was often in the dark about who he was actually working for. He eventually becomes a double agent, spying also for the brutal German Gestapo, playing both sides off the other. He trucks with supremely dangerous characters and inhabits a shadowy world of mind-blowing complexity and perpetual uncertainty.

It reads like a thrilling John le Carré spy novel, except it’s all true – but wait a minute! – is it really all true?

Well: It eventually came to light that Jan Valtin was the pen name for a man by the name of Richard Krebs. Of course, there’s nothing unusual about a writer publishing under a nom de plume, and considering that he made many enemies along the way, one might expect him to publish under a different name.

However, this autobiography was so incredible it attracted the attention of a lot of smart and resourceful people, including the German writer ERNST VON WALDENFELS. He was able to show – by gaining access to documents released after the fall of communist East Germany in 1990-- that a lot of what Krebs claimed to have been doing as a Soviet-Gestapo double agent was greatly embellished or exaggerated. Krebs was also a skilled fiction writer, having published several novels.

On the other hand, large portions of his life story are true – and by any measure – Richard Krebs led an astonishing life of danger and adventure. Incredibly, he later served with the U.S. military in the Philippines during World War II! So he worked for the communists, Nazis and the Americans all at some point in his career! I haven’t even mentioned the times he spent as a sailor, captain of a Soviet ship, a copper miner in South America, and a stint as a prisoner in San Quentin! (He was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon while in the United States).

So, Out of the Night may be an obscure book, but it retains a well-earned cult following today. Readers will receive a vivid inside look of what life was like in Post-World War I Germany, and a greater understanding of how Germany veered off onto the horrifying path leading to the even greater tragedy of World War II. You will also vicariously experience the frightening life of a spy. It’s an amazing book.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Hangman's Daughter: Part Historical Fiction, Part Horrer, Part Mystery Thriller, All Good


THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER is an English translation of a German novel that achieved best seller status in Europe and began doing well in the U.S. market after being offered as a Kindle selection on The translation is well-handled by LEE CHADEAYNE, a member of the American Literary Translators Association. Its original title is Die Henkerstochter.

Author OLIVER PÖTZSCH creates a vibrant fictional world set in 1659 Bavaria. The action takes place in the tiny village of Schongau, which is a real location in Germany near the Alps and the Lech River. In fact, Pötzsch was inspired to write this novel after an intensive study of his family’s genealogy, which led him to discover that he is actually descended from a long line of professional executioners, or hangmen.

The title is something of a misnomer because the hangman’s daughter herself plays only a supporting role. The hangman, Jakob Kuisl, is our main protagonist, and he’s a wonderful character indeed – that’s because he is complicated mixture of stunning contradictions. When ordered to, he will hack off the head a convicted man, no matter how flimsy the evidence, or torture women before he burns them at the stake based on ridiculously trumped-up charges of witchcraft.

On the other hand, Kuisl is highly intelligent and in his chest beats the heart of a humanitarian. He is smarter than just about everybody else in town, and he’s even a far superior healer and physician than the two local “quacks.” In short, he is a Hangman with a Heart. (Hey, maybe that would be a better title)?

Anyway, the plot centers on an accusation of witchcraft against a kindly midwife – who just so happened to have delivered the Hangman’s kids – and who is also known for her kindness toward orphaned children. The charges are prompted by the brutal murders of several local children, whose lifeless bodies are discovered to have “witch signs” tattooed on their backs.

The plot quickly thickens, however, as the Hangman suspects the midwife is innocent, is certainly no witch, and he begins snooping around for the truth. With the aid of a young doctor, Simon Fronwieser, the pair proceed like a post-Medieval version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. They began to uncover a tangled conspiracy that reaches to the very center of the Schongau’s wealthy burgomaster and aldermen elites.

For me the novel works on almost every level. Superior character creation, good enough plotting, excellent description of scene, setting and background – although I will say there are stretches of tedium with too much detail inserted as the author does his best to keep us turning pages while dangling mysteries just in front of our noses, but always out of reach – until the end. There was a tad too much of this unnecessary teasing for my likes, but others might disagree.

The sensitive reader should be warned that there’s plenty of violence and bloodshed, gruesome scenes of torture and killings – including the violent deaths of sweet children – and other descriptions of sundry bloody human processes – not to mention and unflinching look at the all of the basic feces, urine and filth (human and animal) that the people of this time period lived in close proximity to before the advent of modern plumbing and sewer systems.

The Hangman’s Daughter is ultimately entertaining, loaded with dark humor, and the author has a natural sense of irony, which is generated by showing us the stark differences is the societal norms of 1649 Germany as compared to what we think of as rational and sensible today.

Looking back from the vantage point of our lofty perch of 2012, the people of the mid-17th Century seem a bunch of hopelessly violent, greedy, superstitious lunatics – but we have to remember – their world was “normal" and “rational” from their point of view. Before we judge them too harshly, imagine what the people of 400 years into our future will think of our “rational” society of today.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Kybalion: Free Ancient Wisdom Is Now a Free eBook: But Is It Truly Wisdom, Or Just Warmed Over New Age Puffery?


If you’re wondering what the word “Kybalion” really means, it’s likely a term cobbled together by the writer, or writers, of this book. It’s probably an amalgamation of the word Kabbalah, the ancient school of Hebrew mysticism, and Cybele, the Greek mother goddess.

So this is suggestive that the information is a mixture of wisdom that has come down through the centuries from more than one tradition. That’s fitting, as the authors say this information is timeless and universal, and remains fundamentally unchanged no matter what culture or historical period it is filtered through.

The authors also claim that this knowledge was given to the rest of humanity by one man,the ancient Egyptian, HERMES TRISMEGISTUS. Was he a real person? No one really knows, but it’s doubtful. At best, most scholars will say he is a “legendary” figure,or perhaps a name which represents a composite of real people who may have existed. The name Hermes Trismegistus is probably derived by combining the name of the Greek god Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth. Trismegistus itself means "Thrice Knowledgeable." For millennia, Hermes Trismegistus has been associated with what is known as “hermetic knowledge” or the tradition of HERMETICISM.

But now let’s get back to who wrote THE KYBALION. We know it was published in 1912. The authors are only identified as "The Three Initiates." No one knows for absolute sure who the author or authors were, but I would hazard that there is some 95% certainty that it was mostly the work of one man: WILLIAM ATKINSON. He may have had help from a couple of other guys, Paul Case and Elias Gurwurz. (Thus the Three Initiates).

But the primary thrust behind The Kybalion is almost certainly Atkinson -- a shadowy, mercurial man who is known to have authored at least 100 books similar to this one. He was also an attorney and businessman who seemed to have an unending supply of ambition and energy, not only to produce a huge body of esoteric literature, but also worked robustly at a successful legal career. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1862 and died in 1932.

Atkinson and his fellows were the New Agers of their day. They were at the vanguard of something called NEW THOUGHT – which is comparable to what New Age folks are talking about today – and mostly it’s a lot of the same stuff. This is the kind of information that has been around for centuries, and probably thousands of years, and it keeps re-emerging and getting recycled time again in a new package in every century and culture.

So does this mean that the information in The Kybalion represents genuine ancient wisdom that is universal, undying and something which we should take seriously? Can it have real application in our daily lives? Is it something we should pay attention to and strive to adopt as part of our own philosophies today? Or is is merely a cheapy pulp document -- one of dozens churned out by by an early 20th Century rascal who had a reputation as an "occultist?"

There’s no easy answer to these questions. In a general, my own view is that the information presented in The Kybalion is not necessarily false or useless – or even mere superstition – but at the same time, it does not hurt to approach it all with a certain level of healthy pragmatism, and to ask ourselves: “Okay, so what can I really do with this information, if anything?”

For example, one of the primary tenets of the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus is that the universe we exist within is a “thought form,” or as they put it, “The Principle of Mentalism … The All Is Mind… The Universe Is Mental.”

That would be counter to the most common, scientific mainstream belief today which holds that the universe should be considered fundamentally material, made up of solid matter, and that “mental thoughts” are something less definite. Our mental thoughts are only ideas about or are a reflection that results from confronting all that solid material stuff out there.

True, even some of today’s most hardened scientists might come down somewhere in between pure materialism and a pure "Thought Universe" conception -- especially since the advent of quantum mechanics, which has shown that Isaac Newton’s world of classical physics – the billiard ball universe – is not quite as solid, hard or “dead” as we once may have thought it was.

But, anyway, what can we do with this principle today – the idea that we live in a universe that is fundamentally a “mental construct” of some kind?

Well, the implications are many. This idea of mental constructs has generated thousands of New Age books, or greater or lesser quality. Take the recent mega-bestseller “The Secret,” for example. This book suggests that anyone can have anything he or she wants – including fabulous wealth – if they only realize that everything is ultimately mental, and that we can shape our own reality with our thoughts.

No doubt, tens of thousands of people who read The Secret gave it their best shot – they tried to visualize and conjure up stacks of cash for themselves, maybe a Cadillac or a new Porsche, or a nice new home – only to find out that these material objects don’t seem to materialize quite as readily as the theory suggests they should.

The point is, even if we accept the idea that the universe is “mental” or just one big thought form – it clearly is not as easy as it seems to act on that knowledge in a way that will improve our lives, or change our lives, at least in terms of material wealth.

This doesn’t mean that the idea of purely Mental Universe is worthless – it might even be true! – it's just that, what can do we do with that knowledge, and how can it help us, or can it help us change our world for the better? These are tricky questions.

So the bottom line is, you can look upon the information in The Kybalion in a variety of different ways. The case can easily be made that this document is yet another clever New Age hack job put together by a shadowy figure like William Atkinson as a great way to make money in publishing – or you can make the case that this is truly timeless, universal wisdom that certainly has been reiterated for thousands of years.

The very fact that this kind of information has stood the test of time should not be taken lightly -- it suggests something about the universal mythologies human beings cling to, century after century. (And I use the term mythology loosely). That makes it important.

However: The actual application of this ancient wisdom in a way that can make a real difference in your life is not something that is easily done, even if you understand it intellectually.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Living off The Grid Will Orient You In The World Of Solar Power, Wind Power And Other Green Power Techniques


Pssst! Hey! What’s the difference between a volt and a watt? Or let me ask you this: If you build a solar panel out of 36 individual solar cells, and each cell produces ½ volt of electricity, what would be the total wattage capacity of that solar panel? What would be the total voltage output of this solar panel? How many watts! How many volts!!

I’ll answer those “simple” questions in a minute, but I bring it up because these are the details of just how electricity works, and writer DAVID S. BLACK thinks you should have a good understanding of the basics of electronics if you are ever going to “Go Green” and get off the carbon-belching grid.

In his book, LIVING OFF THE GRID, Black takes great pains to cover many of the minute details of how energy and electricity works, from fundamental theory, up to how today’s basic household electrical systems function.

If you are one of those people who has a burning interest in generating your own electricity with solar panels, wind turbines or both, this is an excellent book for getting a broad overview. David Black shows us that getting off the grid is definitely not easy, but far from impossible. He provides case studies of people who have done it. It takes time, some money, accepting a certain learning curve, and just having the grit and determination to start chipping away at your goal – maybe one solar panel at a time.

If you are looking for a detailed instruction manual that shows you step-by-step how to fit your home with solar panels, wire it, and free yourself from the grid – this book is not that. It’s more general, paints the overall picture of what you need, and the many different options available to you. But as I said, there are a lot of basic details about the fundamentals of generating power, which is stuff that's worth knowing.

My view is that this is an excellent books for those need a baseline of understanding about the broad spectrum of options available for getting off the grid. When and if you decide to do the actual work, you’ll need to find more specific, detailed information.

Now: A watt and a volt are basically two different animals. Wattage speaks to the total electrical capacity a particular implement can hold, such as a battery or a solar panel. A 36-cell solar panel in which each cell generates ½ volt, it will obviously have an 18-volt generating capacity. But what is the wattage of that panel?

Well, most sellers of such panels will say a 36-cell, 18-bolt panel has a 60-watt capacity – but they probably would be wrong, according to my research into this. It seems that 60 watts is only the theoretical capacity. In reality, most 36-cell solar panels will hold 30 to 40 watts, for a variety of technical reasons. But it will still easily be able to charge a 12-volt battery.

And so this tells us something about the difference between a volt and a watt. A lot of people think that a volt is basically a sub-unit of a watt, as in: "How many volts in a watt?" but that's the wrong question. A volt is not a sub-unit of a watt. In general, the wattage of an implement is the total amount of energy it can hold. The voltage is the amount that can be drained away from it, so to speak. Look at it this way:

Say you have a tank that can hold 1,000 gallons of water. Now say you attach a pipe to it that can drain the water out at a rate of 5 gallons per minute. Well the 1,000 gallons is like the wattage and the capacity of the drain pipe is like the voltage. See? I’d explain further, but I’m only a journalist and I don’t want to get into too much trouble.

But I’m thankful to David S. Black because reading his book made me discover that the details of electricity are fun and interesting, and he also makes the idea of freeing oneself from our slave-master, bloated utility companies seem a real possibility -- even for mechanically challenged dorks like me.

Need a government grant for solar panels? Learn more about getting free government cash in Ken Korczak's: SECRETS OF A GRANT WRITER

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Obsever Is A Good Enough First Novel, But A Diamond In The Rough


With his first venture into writing an “indie” novel, JONATHAN DAVISON demonstrates that he is a writer with a bright future. I found the majority of THE OBSERVER to be well paced, often compelling, and well-crafted. He ends chapters in a way that really makes the reader want to plunge ahead to the next chapter to find out what happens next.

Yes, certainly, this is a diamond in the rough. I’ll discuss some of those rough edges in a minute, but first, a very brief synopsis:

The story is set in the Ardennes Forest in the winter after the D-Day invasion in which the Allied Forces launched their final offensive against Nazi Germany. The fight was long, bitter and bloody. The story focuses on four British soldiers who become detached from their main unit in the snowy Ardennes. One of their band gets shot in the stomach, and his fellows make a heroic attempt to carry him out of their fox hole and back to where he can get medical attention.

As they trudge through the deep snow, they get lost, and nearly give themselves up for dead from exhaustion and hypothermia – but then they stumble upon an odd cabin in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by one exceedingly strange old man. The soldiers approach the cabin, which looks inviting with a cheery flickering fire -- and let’s just say that’s when things get fantastically weird!

There’s much to admire about The Observer: Vivid, believable characters, excellent plotting, and compelling mysteries. The author ingeniously creates confounding situations that make us scratch our head and think (in a good way): “Just what the hell is going on here?” For me, the sign of a truly top-notch piece of science fiction is when I can’t predict what is going to happen next. This book scores well in this regard.

However: As others here have already pointed out, the editing is dicey (to say the least). I appreciate that indie authors cannot afford professional editors, but many of the typos in this book are of the very obvious kind that just about anyone should be able to catch.

But there is a greater deficiency that is more serious. The critical weakness is the ending – at that point when the curtain is pulled aside and we are allowed to have a direct look at why everything that happened to these characters did happen.

In mystery novels, there is often scene at the end where the clever sleuth or detective gathers everyone in a room, explains all the clues and particulars of the case, and then in an astounding crescendo – he names the murderer! All is revealed! Mystery solved!

In a sense, the author takes a similar tact, albeit with a lofty, science fictiony spin of the “Big Reveal” at the end. This tactic might work for some, but it doesn’t work for me. Instead, the author should have “forced" his character to use his own intelligence, his cleverness, and his undaunted, gritty drive to find clues as he overcame obstacles, battled dark forces – and solved the mystery himself – THROUGH HIS ACTIONS!

It’s one of the oldest rules of great writing: Show, don’t tell.

In short: The author should have SHOWED us solution of the mystery through ACTION – rather than sitting us all down in the end for an explanatory lecture. (The main characters literally sit down on a log as they to reveal all to the reader!)

The saving grace of the “Big Reveal” scene is that is has a certain emotional impact because Davison has made us fall in love with his heroic main character, the scrappy Brit, Albert Fox.

Over all, I give this novel high marks because, for the most part, it’s a compelling, entertaining read.

Join Ken Korczak for his adventures in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Monday, February 13, 2012

For My Money, 'Searchers' Is The Most Frightening Book Of Alien Abduction


Over the years just a handful of UFO books have been able to creep forth and poke their icy, boney fingers into the soft underbelly of the deepest subconscious fears of the public, scaring the bejeepers out of millions of readers.

Whitely Strieber’s COMMUNION, for example, seemed honest and authentic, and therefore exceedingly unsettling and creepy. John Mack’s ABDUCTION was more scholarly and clinical, but because it was the work of a respected Harvard psychiatrist, it probably made even hardened skeptics think: “Gulp! I wonder if something like this could really be happening?”

But there is one book of UFO alien abduction I have read over the years which delivered that feeling of quesy fright like none other. This is a much more obscure book -- it’s SEARCHERS: A TRUE STORY OF ALIEN ABDUCTION by RON FELBER.

An interesting aspects of this book is that Felber is an outsider to Ufology. Unlike Strieber, Bud Hopkins, David Jacobs and others who made careers and reputations by focusing on alien abduction topics, Felber is a mainstream writer and businessman. He has produced several books of fiction and nonfiction. But “Searchers” is his only work in the UFO genre. He appears to have written it only because a tip from an associate pointed his way to an extraordinary story that Felber found so compelling he had to write about it.

The book describes a sizzling night of terror as experienced by an ordinary middle class California couple, Steve and Dawn Hess. It was 1989 when the Hesses decided to head out to the Mojave Desert for a camping trip. Upon arriving and setting up camp in the middle of nowhere, the isolated couple began to see strange globes of light in the sky. They were unnerved but tried to explain them away in all the common ways. But then, events rapidly escalated to an profoundly frightening degree.

The “lights” moved toward their camp. Steve and Dawn Hess retreat to hide in their camper, only to be accosted by an array of eerie alien beings who surround them, look into their camper window, and seem intensely bent upon getting at them and probing every aspect of their beings. They perform devastating psychological invasions of their minds – at times, the couple is surrounded by dozens of bizarre alien manifestations of wide variety.

Dawn Hess described it this way:

“They (the aliens) wanted everything we had … everything …our minds, our bodies, even our souls, I think. It was like they drew it out of us with a syringe … every molecule. And it was painful and I thought we were going to die, or already had died and were being tortured in hell.”

After enduring a night of this hell, the Hesses returned to their normal lives and jobs, but all was not well with them. Nightmares, fears, anxieties, post-traumatic stress – everything that had happened to them had shattered their sense of what it means to be a normal human being.

It’s a remarkable story, and in the hands of an extremely skilled writer – Felber holds a Ph.D. in Arts and Letters – the result is one of the most terrifying books on alien abduction ever written.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Mind Expanding Vision of Life And The Universe From An Islamic Intellectual


This is a fascinating book which I am going to recommend, but I start out with a warning: This is a translation to English, and the job of translating, although adequate, is far from perfect, and often very clumsy. It reads well enough to be understandable, but some readers may find the dicey English phrases and improper grammar distracting while trying to absorb the challenging concepts presented by the original author. (Note: I understand there may have been an update of the editing recently in a new edition of the book, but I have not viewed that edition, if such exists).

Despite this flaw, UNIVERSAL MYSTERIES is a book I hope a lot of people will read. This is exactly the kind of "expanded" perspective on the nature of religion and God concept that millions of people would do well to consider.

AHMED HULUSI is described as an "Islamic Intellectual" in his bio. Born in Istanbul in 1945, he has worked most of his life as a journalist, but has spent many years in the study of Islam and religion, and delving deeply into the mystical element of Islam, Sufism.

Certainly, there isn't anything in this book that has not been revealed or proposed elsewhere -- by other philosophers, Zen masters, Christian monks, New Agers, even secular scientists -- but it's extremely helpful to get yet another take on how to think of, or envision the Universe as one giant "Intelligence Singularity" (my term, not the author's) that, at its most fundamental level, is the base of all reality, and is something that can never be divided from the "oneness" of itself.

I felt I got a fresh look at a subject I have been long familiar with -- I only wish I could recommend this book more strongly, but native speakers of English will be in for an unpleasant surprise if they are not made aware of the awkwardness of the translation. (Although it may have been updated in a new edition).


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Free Kindle Science Fiction, Free Nook Science Fiction: Clifford Simak, Hellhounds of the Cosmos


I’ve always had a soft spot for CLIFFORD SIMAK, and not just because he is one of the greats of the Golden Era of Science Fiction, and because he was the third person to achieve “Grand Master” status from the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).

He’s special to me because he spent much of his life working as a hard-core, nose-to-the-grindstone newspaper reporter in Minnesota – and I also spent several years doing the same.

I also went to college at Winona State University, which is just across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin and fairly near Simak’s birthplace of Millville, Wisconsin. Many of his works are set in this rural, pastoral Wisconsin environment, which is a land of graceful bluffs, rolling hills, deciduous greenery and granite outcroppings.

What’s astounding about this free ebook selection, HELLHOUNDS OF THE COSMOS, is that it was published in 1932. Once you read it you’ll see why I select the word astounding. It’s the story of an inter-dimensional invasion by an alien species – but the “hellhounds” turn out not to be extraterrestrials – but rather, earth creatures from an unimaginably distant past -- and another plain of existence!

I mean, how many other writers from small towns in Wisconsin were envisioning scenarios like that, much less finding the talent and moxie to pull off a story that was accessible to a mass audience? At the time Simak published this piece, he was working at at the Brainerd Dispatch, a newspaper in central Minnesota lakes country.

Reading this story gives one that fun feeling of watching an old black-and-white science fiction movie of the 1950s, except it’s more intelligent and demands that the reader expand his or her mind to grasp the concept —and the entertainment – of the plot and premise.

One of the things I really like about this piece is the vividly accurate picture Simak creates of a hustling-bustling olf-fashioned newsroom environment with editors and reporters working in a state sleep-deprived frenzy to deliver that big stop-the-presses! story to their readers.

Hellhounds of the Cosmos is a free ebook download from a variety of location, such as and here: HELLHOUNDS

For More Inter-Dimensional Adventures Of The Real-Life And True Kind, Go To: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Short eBook Provides Helpful Tips On How To Sell More Books On Amazon


There is a saying in the publishing business: "It takes a certain intelligence to write a book, but it takes a genius to sell that book!"

Believe me, it's true. So those of us selling ebooks need all the help we can get, and this short book provides that. If the self-starter book marketer takes the time to follow-up on, and perform the steps suggested here, he or she will take positive steps on that path to selling more books. If you're going to take the time, pain and effort to write a book, you might as well invest the time, pain and effort it takes to get that book into the hands of as many readers as possible.

However, this book got me into a bit of a jam with Amazon. For example, the author suggests writing book reviews for other books listed on Amazon. She then suggests you work in a plug for your own book. Maybe it was just me, but I was led to believe that this meant I could put in a link for my own book in my Amazon reviews: Not so, Amazon warned me in an email. After writing more than 20 reviews, and linking my own books in each review, Amazon sent me an email telling me this violated its policy. I'm not sure Smith makes this crystal clear -- at least it was not clear to me.

So this is an okay book, will help you sell more books, but be careful. You might get in trouble. UPDATE: Since I first published this review, Smith may have updated this short book (it's about 26 pages) to correct some of the problems I mention, although I'm 100% sure about that.

Ken Korczak is a former professional and successful government grant writer. You can find some of his best "insider" secrets and tips for getting free government money here: SECRETS OF A GRANT WRITER

The Ghosts Of Varner Creek Is An Above Average Spooky Yarn, Maybe Even Way Above Average


Solomon Mayfield is 87 years old and running out the time clock on his life in a Texas small-town nursing home. Maybe it's not surprising for a man so near the end of his life to see the occasional ghost come drifting through his room to float eerily over his bed. But for old Mr. Mayfield, seeing ghosts has been a regular occurrence since he was 12 years old.
The circumstances surrounding what triggered this special ability are at the heart of the plot of THE GHOSTS OF VARNER CREEK

This is a first novel for MICHAEL WEEMS, but he writes like a novelist with far more experience. His writing demonstrates the understanding that the best fiction is based on character. Yes, a truly great book needs more – plot, background, premise, conflict – all that stuff. But if you are able to create vivid characters and make the reader care about them, you’re more than halfway home to a great read.

Mr. Weems manages that and more. He wrangles all the elements of long-form fiction together sufficiently here to make for a fine novel.

So as the title implies, The Ghosts of Varner Creek has the restless undead as a central premise, but this is a very different kind of ghost story. It involves events that happened in a turn-of-the-century southern Texas, cotton-farming village that is still a few years off from getting electricity or them new-fangled “horseless carriages.”

Young Solomon’s father, Abram Mayfield, is a no good, violent drunk who only married Solomon’s mother, Annie, after he practically raped and impregnated her. Their subsequent life, as you can imagine, is not exactly one of marital bliss. To add heartache and pain to the whole situation, Abram and Annie’s first child is afflicted with Down Syndrome. Against this background, Solomon, a year younger than his mentally challenged sister, is doing the best he can to get along in a family that is isolated and dysfunctional, to say the least.

But how did all this ghost business get started? That’s what you have to read the book to find out -- and few will be disappointed at the skillful way Weems cobbles, crafts and weaves together a story that is dark and gut-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting and hopeful.

This book has been recently available free as a Kindle selection, but as of this review, it is being offered for 99 cents – more than a fair price for a terrific read.

Join Ken For His Adventures In:THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Ultimate Secret For Losing Weight Will Be Revealed In This Review


Over the decades, many forests have been clear cut and the wood pressed into pulp to make paper for the sole purpose of publishing books that tell you how to lose weight. How many weight loss books do you really have to read to get it through your head to eat less and exercise more, and eat healthy stuff? Well, apparently one more.

So here we have a short, very short Kindle book that is using electricity, probably generated by dirty coal, contributing to global warming, so that people can read yet another book that explains how to lose weight, which of course, is to not eat so much and get some regular exercise.

This book suggests basically a lot of exercises directed at the stomach, and so on.It has some eating tips, but suggests no specific belly-fat buring foods, although warns against some. For example, the author, Tony Donato, admonishes importantly: "Sugar is bad news!" And he says, "sugar turns directly into fat!" Holy moly! This will certainly come as a revelation to millions!

Here is another stunning revelation in this book: "All the energy in your body is provided by the protein, fat and carbohydrates that you eat." Wow! You mean human beings cannot absorb energy directly by taking in cosmic rays, or use sunlight and chlorophyll to manufacture nourishment?

But, weight loss books sell and sell. Publishers know that. Weight loss gurus know that. So they keep churning them out, and people keep buying them, seeking that ever elusive Holy Grail: Losing weight. The way to do that, of course, it to eat less and exercise more. But maybe what Albert Einstein once said applies here: "The best theories are simple, but not too simple."



Monday, February 6, 2012

The Night Sky: Denver Writer Maria Sutton Pens A Masterful True Story Of Love, War, Lives Devastated And Put Back Together


I’m tempted to say that writing a compelling, fascinating book is easy when it just so happens you have a great story to tell. That’s the case with author MARIA SUTTON, a Denver woman who was born in war-torn post World War II Germany in a Displaced Person’s camp to a Polish father and Ukrainian mother, both of whose lives had been shattered by war.

But even a terrific story still must be skillful rendering to make it a great read. I was delighted to find that all the necessary elements come together for an absorbing read in THE NIGHT SKY: A JOURNEY FROM DACHAU TO DENVER AND BACK

Maria Sutton came to America with her parents as refugees in 1951. Her parents were Paul and Julia Venckus. Maria had always assumed that Paul was her father. Then at age 13, Maria overheard a hushed conversation between her mother and a friend that tipped her off to an astounding revelation: Here real father had been a mysterious Polish military officer who had disappeared from their lives in Germany!

Young Maria was stunned!

What happened? If it was not electrifying enough to discover that your real father was another man entirely, the mystery was deepened by the oddly cyrptic behavior of her mother, who spoke in clipped but reverential tones of her lost father – when she could be coerced to mention him at all. It also became increasingly obvious that she had never stopped loving the man she was forced to abandon -- for mysterious reasons -- in favor of marrying another man, and fleeing her homeland forever.

And so begins an incredible 43-year quest for Maria Sutton to find her lost father, a man left behind somewhere in the shambles of a broken European continent. Without spoiling it, I will tell you that this is more than just a detective story involving one woman’s search for a lost father – what Maria eventually discovers penetrates emotionally to the bone. Since learning about the existence of her biological father, the author develops an idealized, personal mythology about what kind of man her father might have been, or maybe still is. Could he still be alive? What she eventually does find is – well, you have to read the book to find out!

Also at the heart of this story are some of the most fundamental elements of existence that we all wrestle with every day. You know, it's the big questions: What is love? What does it mean to love another person? Why do some people deserve or receive unconditional love, whether they have earned it or not?


Who am I? What does my life mean? Why am I here? How did I get here?

Finally, I give the author high marks for her sharp eye for detail, and that she never slips into overt sentimentality. She writes with an unrelenting honesty, not allowing herself to avert her eyes from unpleasant realities -- and all this while showing us the heroic side of humanity as well, of how ordinary folks can become extraordinary people when the world thrusts incredible events upon them.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Leslie Peltier's Starlight Nights Is A Work Of Quiet Genius


Let's just call this book what it is: A rare masterpiece. STARLIGHT NIGHTS was never destined to be a best seller, but it will enjoy permanent cult status among a small audience of sensative people who love the stars, love nature -- and perhaps a certain segment of society who will pine forever for a slice of American rural life that is permanently lost.

I hope it is not over-the-top to say that people may find reading LESLIE PELTIER'S ode to the stars a religious experience. This book will have a profound effect on those lucky few attuned to a more sensative mode of existence, those who are able to see the incredible beauty is something as small as a wildflower or insect, or as grand as a night sky paved with glittering stars.

This is the story of a guy born in 1900 near the small town of Delphos, Ohio, and his life growing up on the farm, where early on he developed a love affair with stars and telescopes. Peltier gets zapped at an early age with the spectacular appearance of a stunnning comet, known only as 1910a because it was the first comet discovered that year. It had to play second fiddle, however, because 1910a was also the year of Halley's Comet famous return.

Peltier also describes being transfixed by the Pleiades which he spotted through the window of their rural farm house as a small boy -- this was in the day before every farm had a yardlight, and before the light pollution of surrounding cities began to blot out the beauty of the night sky. It begans a life long journey of amateur astronomy, during which Peltier discovered 12 comets, made thousands of variable star observations, built observatories, and eventually came to be known as "the world's greatest amateur astronomer."

I purchased Starlight Nights some 40 years ago when I was 12 years old. I found it in a large box of used books that were being sold off in a clothing store. While I waited for my mother to shop, I mined through the book bin and grabbed Starlight Nights -- it was 50 cents. Wow! I still marvel to think about it! I didn't know it yet, but 50 cents and a secondhand book was about to change my life forever!

Over the past four decades, I have read Starlight Nights perhaps 20 times. Of the thousands of books I have read across the years, I can't think of one that has affected me more profoundly than has this rare jewel in the starry pantheon of astronomical literature.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Double Murder In A Small Minnesota Town: A Devastating True Story


It would be difficult to imagine the emotional pain of a proud mother whose beloved first-born son committed a horrible act -- killing his wife with a shotgun, and then turning the gun on himself in a small-town double murder-suicide. These events took place near the tiny town of Kennedy in the far northwest corner of Minnesota.

The author, EUNICE RICH, opens up her heart with almost unbelievable candor, letting everyone in to share the story of her shock and mind-numbing anguish over an event so terrible, it would have to be ranked as one of the worst possible nightmares any mother might have to live through.

JUDGE ME NOT is truly a remarkable book, and has many surprising elements that take it well beyond the story of how a normal, hard-working, loving family in the American Midwest was forced to confront a reality that's too brutal for most people to even contemplate.

The author not only outlines the gruesome details of the deaths of her son and daughter-in-law, but takes the reader on a journey of spiritual healing that is quite unlike any other I have ever read before. It's really a special book. It gets my highest recommendation.

Join Ken Korczak in: THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ken Wilber's "Up From Eden" -- A Classic "Must Read" Book


If you think about it, there must have been a time when human beings did not have the same kind of minds or “brand” of consciousness that we have today.

For example, imagine what it would be like to have no personal ego identification. Can you? Imagine being a human creature that was more akin to one of the “lower” animals, such as being a member of a herd. Rather than framing your reality in terms of “I” or “me” – you only identify yourself as a member of a group – but not even “a” member. You are the group.

This is just one theoretical past element of the human condition KEN WILBER explores in this amazing book, UP FROM EDEN: A TRANSPERSONAL VIEW OF EVOLUTION. Most people are comfortable with the idea that we have evolved biologically as a species, but what fewer people contemplate is that the physical body is not the only element of humanity that must have evolved.

Throughout the uncounted millennia – the human mind must have undergone enormous transformation as well.

At its earliest stage, Wilber calls the psychological make-up of the human mind the pleromatic-uroboric -- an era when “people" were primates gathering and scavenging to survive with all the other animals. This is a state in which the individual hominid cannot distinguish the difference between his or her inner experience from outer reality. In a sense, “people” are embedded in a kind of unconsciousness. They function like animals, concerned with finding something to eat, staying warm, having sex – just getting along and surviving.

Somehow, Wilber suggests that the mind advanced out of this stage over eons of time – the mind transcends– to the next stage of development, which he calls the typhonic. This is an amazing advancement, since the individual now is able to see himself or herself as a separate from the rest of nature. The individual is able to think: “This is me, that is not me.”

But this is still a long way from people having the sharp distinction of being a “special” individual with a unique identity. It’s more like a blurred stage that might be dreamlike. The individual is moving along in an exterior world, distinct from it, yet partially absorbed in it as well. There is still no true language.

And so the march of human evolution continues: The next stage is the “mythic membership,” which is eventually transcended to achieve the ego stage. Finally, a man or woman can stand up and say: “I am me!

Note that Wilber suggests there might have been variations within each stage, such as a ‘lower ego’ stage in which a sense of individuality has emerged, but is still heavily tied to the group. Other scholars, such as Julian Jaynes, have offered similar scenarios. Jaynes, for example, suggested that even the ancient Greeks still had not achieved the full state of ego consciousness we have today. He famously pointed out that even the characters of the Iliad seem to act more like “pawns being pushed around a chestboard” than men acting with individual initiative. The proposition is that these Greeks were at a lower stage of ego development, acting more like members of a hive or herd than people with a sense of sharp self-identity -- but almost there.

Wilber makes the case that humanity has been on a hundreds-of-thousands-of-years journey of evolving “upward” from a lowly unconsciousness state to higher forms of self-knowledge and awareness– and naturally we can’t conclude that we are at the journey’s end.

Just as we transcended – and absorbed and incorporated all the lower stages – we are now struggling to get beyond our ego-based consciousness toward further transcendence.

Up From Eden will be one of the most remarkable and challenging books you have ever read, if you dare to tackle it and are open enough to accept what it implies about the nature of humanity – which is both painful and hopeful in the extreme.

Come along with Ken Korczak to THE STRANGE UNIVERSE OF DR. 58

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Bedbug Who Wouldn't Bite Will Delight Children


Some of the best books are those that take commonly held beliefs, or an idea that’s generally agreed upon, and turn it all upside down. By doing this in a positive way you can often create a delightful situation that tweaks the imagination and tickles our inner impish, creative side.

That's what accomplished Canadian writer MELODY RHODES has done in producing the charming, and just oh-so-super-sweet “THE BEDBUG WHO WOULDN'T BITE” series of children’s books. The main character, yes, is a bedbug. But before you conjure up an image of those creepy crawly little critters that have made a huge comeback in recent years – think instead of a fuzzy-wuzzy cute little guy who chooses to swim against the stream – he may be a bedbug, but he simply will not bite! He only has one goal: “Not to bite, but to sleep tight!” But wait! Maybe he has an additional goal – to be friends with your kids! (Everyone in unison now: “Awwwwwww.”)

Certainly this is bedtime book that will delight tots and even older children. Not only is it fun, sweet and cute, but also offers a chance to build child character and creativity And after all, the bedbug who won’t bite is making a choice to be nicer and friendlier – and that’s sets a great example.

Better yet, “THE BEDBUG WHO WOULDN'T BITE” literally jumps right off the page to play with your tykes because it comes with a cute, furry little bedbug toy that will be glad to snuggle into bed with your child. Lest I forget, bedbug has a friend – "Mouse" – another delightful character that adds dimension and form to the bedbug universe.

When you think about it, if a ghost can be friendly, as in Casper the Friendly Ghost, and a mouse can be a super hero, as in Mighty Mouse – why can’t a bedbug be averse to biting? Well, it can, and so the time for The Bedbug Who Wouldn’t Bite has arrived. (See also: BEDBUGS ON AMAZON

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH