Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Kindle eBook, "Phantoms and Monsters: Cryptid Encounters" by Lon Strickler will please fans of the paranormal despite some bumpy editing


I'll cut right to the chase and say I enjoyed this Kindle ebook. That's probably because the subject matter interests me greatly. So for its intended audience - folks like me who are fascinated with strange creatures and the eerie phenomenon that surround them - this is a can't miss selection.

I'm not going to give it my top recommendation, however, for reasons I'll explain in just a bit. But first, a brief summary for those who want to know what's in the book:

PHANTOMS AND MOSTERS: CRYPTID ENCOUNTERS is a collection of raw eyewitness accounts of legendary beasties: Bigfoot, mothman, and there's a few serpent-like river monsters and a "little people" encounter thrown in for good measure. Here you will find mostly raw or only minimally edited email letters from average folks who were astounded to encountered strange creatures in their everyday lives.

I should say there is also a number of reports of some really weird sightings - bizzare, peculiar creatures -- some of which I have never heard of before, and for that I add extra praise.

However, the buyer should be aware of what they're getting here: This is not so much a formal book but a series of "cut-and-paste" selections from author LON STRICKLER'S, popular BLOG. And here is where I have some mild quibbles, based mostly on formatting:

The text is not well-edited. Granted, the author wanted to retain the exact flavor of the original reports of folks on the ground, and I applaud him for that. But the dicey production values go beyond just lack of editing to other factors, especially a constantly shifting text size. Sometimes the font size goes from bigger to smaller from page to page, and this makes little sense to me - and for many it will be distracting.

There are also some raw reports that should have been edited a bit more rigorously - the most intriguing and fascinating report involves an Ohio man's encounter with the famous mothman entity -- made even more interesting because his story relates to the famous Silver Bridge collapse disaster of 1967, which killed 46 people.

This entry is exceedingly bizarre, frightening and gripping - but I had to stop and re-read many passages several times to be clear about what they guy was trying to say because his writing was so muddy. If it was me, I would have provided additional editing or perhaps inserted commentary to help the reader understand this man's amazing story.

So, this is an ebook created mostly from a "raw dump" from a blog with minimal formal editing - yet, it still gets a sky-high recommendation from me because the content is so interesting, and contributes valuable information to the record.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Other Pilot by Ed Baldwin is an aviation thriller that gets muddled in the middle, making the plot veer off course for a crash landing


THE OTHER PILOT is an ambitious attempt to write a thriller novel which incorporates some of the most relevant issues of our day - the banking crisis, the growing mistrust of the U.S. Government, political power, conspiracy theories - all wrapped up in the world of hot-jock fighter pilots who live, breath, sleep and eat flying, fighter jets and all things avionic.

The problem is that the author's skill is not equal to the task at hand. The first three chapters are tight and do an excellent job of setting up a confounding mystery - and the last three or four chapters feature some fine, well-handled action scenes that get the blood pumping.

However, the downfall is the vast muddy middle of this novel. Writer ED BALDWIN, a retired Air Force flight surgeon, loses his grip on the control stick of his plot. He sets out to follow a well-designed literary flight plan, but instead gets lost in heavy fog and crash lands in a swamp teaming with conspiracy theories, right-wing paranoia about the U.N., NRA gun-nut blather, corporate banking scams, and preachy lectures on the innate human superiority of the fighter pilot.

Ed Baldwin
I'm well familiar with pilots. I once worked as communications writer within the aerospace industry. This afforded me the opportunity to meet, interview and interact with some of the most stellar and accomplished pilots of our day.

For example, I met and interviewed the great Scott Crossfield, the first man to break Mach 2. I sat down to a lunch and conversed with an impressive guy -- the Marine aviator James Buchli -- who logged more than 4,000 hours in jet fighters, including combat missions in the F-4 Phantom II. Buchli went on to fly four Space Shuttle missions.

One of my best friends while I worked in aerospace was a Vietnam-era B-52 pilot who happened to grow up in the same small North Dakota town as my first cousin, who was also a B-52 pilot and retired from the Air Force a Full Bird colonel.

But the bottom line is - and this is what those-who-are-absorbed-in-the-bliss-of-Aviation-Salvation-but-who-want-to-be-writers don't understand - is that there are those of us who don't care all that much about airplanes, bombers and fighter jets. We think they're boring. And believe it or not, I really don't think that a man's pilot license can automatically trigger a sexual frenzy in the female human body, or that taking a woman flying in the clouds will cause her nipples to get hard (as happens in this book).

No, I'm a lowly earth-hugging drudge, skulking along in the low-paying gravel pits of the writing business. What really gets my rocks off is a tight plot, a blistering pace, a viewpoint character who is constantly in the clutches of grave danger, and who is fighting tooth and nail, page after page, to defeat the evil forces marshaled against him.

I like of lot of narrow escapes, background maneuvering and intrigue. I don't give a bent wing flap if the plot is driven by fighter pilots or cloistered nuns weaving carpets in Tuscany -- as long as the rendering is compelling and gripping - and keeps me jabbing the Kindle "page-turn button" like a cobra striking a small, furry animal.

This story makes too many unscheduled landings to let the characters kick back with some cold beers, spicy burritos, fried chicken, collard green and the occasional bout of athletic sex. But even great sex and peppery food can be dull if it stalls out the plot and causes a nose dive down to storybook swampland.

If you are among the Aviation Elect, have accepted Frank Borman as your Personal Savior, and believe the only thing that separates you from the slavery of a foreign power is a fleet of demigods stroking the sticks of F-16s armed with 2,000-pound bombs - you may enjoy The Other Pilot. If that's not you, well ...

Ken Korczak is the author of BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

Monday, October 1, 2012

"The Circle and the Sword" by Nigel Mortimer is a rare gem which is an important addition to the field of paranormal investigation, ufology and exploration of mystical studies


I believe this small book is an important document. It is a genuine, authentic and intriguing addition to the field of ufology and paranormal investigation -- written by an upright “regular bloke” (his words) living day-to-day among what is one of the most important focal points for unexplained phenomenon in the world.

THE CIRCLE AND THE STONE is the story of NIGEL MORTIMER who lives in the North Yorkshire area of England near the fabled ILKLEY MOOR – a sub-realm of greater ROMBALD'S MOOR -- a location of incredible rock carvings and ceremonial stone monuments dating to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Other megaliths that have been erected here for reasons unknown and known throughout the ages.

In the late fall of 1980 Mortimer was a carefree teenager working as an office clerk. Suddenly, uninvited, without warning or reason, the home where Mortimer lived began to manifest strange poltergeist activity -- banging noises, doors mysteriously flung open -- and something extremely strange (and almost comical) happened to his sister. Then came the night of November 30 when Mortimer had a personal encounter with one of the famous glowing orbs of Ilkey.

Mortimer at first thought he had experienced merely a brief sighting. He awoke one night "for no apparent reason" and felt compelled to look out his window. In the icy cold skies, Mortimer espies an anomalous moving light -- a spherical object -- which moved across the sky, and then appeared to come straight toward him. He observed the object for a time -- experiencing many strange sensations as he did so -- but mostly forgot about the event upon awakening the next morning.

But in coming days, Mortimer came to feel that his sighting was more than a simple, passive event – the glowing orb seemed to have reached somehow deeply into his psyche, implanting a seed within him that would grow into a powerful and irresistible obsession with the bizarre manifestations of this enchanted region.

Mortimer’s experience was both a blessing and a curse. It seized what was once the life of a "normal bloke" and later responsible father, husband and hard-working family man – and flung him onto the path of obsessed UFO investigator.

Mortimer could scarcely believe what was happening to himself. His first marriage began falling apart; his work life suffered – yet he couldn't set aside his deep fixation. A second marriage would later fall prey to his unstoppable quest as well. It seems that all aspects of the “normal life” for an honest man from a small English village would be consumed by ancient powers inhabiting the moorlands of England.

People have been reporting sightings and encounters with strange glowing orbs Ilkley Moor for uncounted centuries. That this phenomenon exists here is beyond question. The historical record is rife with accounts of bizarre encounters with “energy globes” that have come to be known my many names – “Wi ll-o’- the-Wisp, Jack o’ Lantern (or Lanthorn), Kitty Candlestick and others.

The well-documented historical record of this phenomenon adds credibility to Mortimer’s story – a man who has been living and prowling Rombald’s Moor his entire adult life. He has put his personal credibility and reputation on the line within his community, which adds weight to the integrity of his account.

So this book is not only a must read – but gets my highest recommendation – but now it is time for some tough love – and my tough love message comes in two parts:


The fact is, the technical rendering of the Kindle edition of this book is extremely rough. I would urge the author immediately to implement a thorough editing and reformatting. Much as it pains me, I owe it to the readers of my reviews to warn them that here they will find numerous typos, glitches, uneven formatting to the point of considerable distraction. I won’t belabor this – and so – I leave the issue there.

Second and more importantly:

I believe this book, The Circle and the Sword – as it stands --represents one of the greatest missed opportunities in the history of UFO/mystical/paranormal literature – but it’s still not too late.

Let me explain:

What we have here is one of the best personal stories of UFO/mystical experience encounter in the world. That’s not hyperbole. It’s a story that spans decades, and it is a saga of unquestionable integrity. In the context of history, the quest of Nigel Mortimer is important to the legacy of the region.

So what I’m saying is that this book begs to be so much more.

The combination of Mortimer’s personal story -- the struggles of his personal life, his obsessive quest, his inability to free himself from the powers of Ilkley Moor – combined with the astonishing (and authenticated) mystical phenomenon associated with ancient monuments – cries out to be expanded in deeper, richer detail.

For me, the very best books are those that read like a compelling work of fiction, but are, in fact, true stories. We have the beginnings of that here. Mortimer’s story contains the four primary key and classic ingredients of the best fiction: character, setting, theme and plot.


Character – Nigel Mortimer is inexplicably obsessed, thrust unwillingly like an Odysseus into a journey of magical encounter. He is often lost, depressed and feels hope is lost. But he keeps pressing forward on his hero’s journey, finding strength, sometimes glimpsing wonders and joy, sometimes finding unexpected help along the way.

Setting – What could be better? The ancient terrain of Rombald’s Moor, like something out of a Thomas Hardy novel. A scene littered with hoary ancient monuments, redolent with the ages, virtually shimmering with the latent potential of primeval energies – a picturesque, austere, yet beautiful landscape.

Theme – The quest for ultimate knowledge; the challenge of melding the modern ufology with mythology and the genuine, lost esoteric mysteries from the mists of time.

Plot – The main plot is a quest for knowledge and enlightenment. It’s a mission to uncover the secrets of a magical, hidden alternate universe. And there are subplots aplenty – the struggling relationships of Mortimer with his family; his sometimes dicey relationship within a modern community that has lost touch with its magical past and greater reality. Mortimer’s story is an alchemist’s heart-wrenching search for spiritual gold.

Mind you – I realize nobody is asking for my advice – and Circle and the Stone stands as a gem (although must be edited). However, I offer my comments as a fellow writer, journalist and maven of the UFO/paranormal genre who much admires this work, and wants more of it and from it.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA