blogging, Research, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Ask me your questions, Bridgekeeper. I am not afraid.

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), the Bridgekeeper prevented any knight unable to answers his questions from crossing the bridge. Wrong answers got the knight tossed into the gully below. Think of the Bridgekeeper as your readers – who will toss your book aside if it is not answering their questions.

I write hard sci-fi and I have a WiP with a deadline that hinges on my understanding of something many sci-fi fans know more about than I do: Is quantum superposition universal? Getting this wrong in a hard sci-fi story has the same effect as say, firing seven shots from a six-shooter in an old west tale, or getting the royal succession wrong in a historical novel, or misusing DNA to identify the killer in a detective story. The knowledgeable reader dismisses the story as beneath his reading level.

Asking a science fiction group on facebook, “Is quantum superposition universal?” got me 35 knowledgeable answers. Now, I don’t know more about quantum mechanics than I did, but, I do know what most readers in my genre will accept.

I also learned that readers are not afraid to tell you what they expect from a good story.

About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Welcome, Writers Co-op

Happy Holidays Again

Who’d of thunk we’d still be here, 20 months after beginning in April of 2016? Not only are we (quite vocally at times) here, I believe we have remained true to our original intent, as expressed by Curtis Bausse in the First Post.

What can you expect to find here? Since there’s nothing new under the sun, I do admit the innovation bit could be a challenge, but we’ll try our best, I promise. There’ll be anecdotes and analysis, thoughtfulness and humour, awards and recommendations, opinions, rants and wackiness. We don’t expect to work miracles and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But what we do take seriously is writing itself. Which means we’re also keen to help writers explore whatever path might lead somewhere interesting, and help readers find good writing. If that sounds like a programme you could tune in to, you’ve come to the right place. Drop us a line, tell us what you’re up to. Maybe we’ll end up travelling the path together. Whichever one it turns out to be.

May Your God Bless You this holiday season and in the coming year.

About Writers, Amazon, blogging, book reviews, book sales, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op


Amazon prevented me from reviewing books by Curtis Bausse and Victor Acquista because, they say, my review may be perceived as biased. Duh. I don’t know how they know but I do know they are wrong.
True, I only review books that are good. And yes, my reviews were positive but that’s because, as a writer myself, I know how difficult writing is and the good parts are always worth praising. Praising the best of a good book is not bias. It is acknowledgement.

So, I came up with half an idea.

If Facebook posts are any guide, many writers these days are pissed at Amazon’s review policies. What we need is a place where writers may post reviews of books. Peer reviews. Reviews by people who have read the story and can comment in depth because they have an appreciation for what it took to create that story.

Readers will not be mislead by reviews written by another writer if the fact’s disclosed:
– Review by Thomas Wolosz, Author of Agony of the Gods
Jeesh! It’s arrogant to believe that people can’t be trusted to think.

So, fellow writer co-opers, what say we create a place here, on the Writers Co-op, for writers to review books?
Call it, “Peer Reviews” and claim the high ground.
Many authors might appreciate it.
Authors will, of course, still want reviews on Amazon, but they would also link from their web page to their review in our Peer Reviews. It could make our site a bit more relevant to today’s writers.

As I said, it’s half an idea. The other half are the develish details.
What do you think and how might this work?


Morality vs. Enchantment: A Response to Victor Acquista’s Writing to Raise Consciousness: Meaning & Intent

I very much enjoyed your post, Victor. And as Curtis noted, one could easily compose a twelve-page essay in response. I’ll keep my remarks confined to a few loosely related thoughts which flitted through my own consciousness as I read your blog post.

First off, this question of “writing to raise consciousness”—quibbling definitions aside, I take your meaning—and, in the main, applaud the intent—whilst wincing from such a baldly stated, motivating aesthetic principle of overt didacticism and moral uplift. Though John Gardner has remarked “true art is by its nature moral” (italics his in On Moral Fiction; Basic Books, Inc.; 1978) Vladimir Nabokov tells us that there are “. . . three points of view from which a writer can be considered: He may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three . . . but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.”

Regarding your observation that “authors often write to get readers to think about a particular issue” I can only exclaim, indeed! I oftentimes write to think more deeply about a particular issue or to explore a theme; I think all serious writers are more interested in theme than plot. (Excepting hacks, eh? I confess to a firmly held prejudice here: I think writers of lesser talent, ability and ambition are all-consumed by plot; whereas writers of greater stature–that is to say writers of deeper thought, broader emotion and depth of feeling–are spurred to action, epiphany and insight by an exploration of theme.)

Now please understand that I do respect your approach to the craft; I honor and salute the thoughtful deliberateness and intentionality with which you interweave spiritual values into your work. (No ironic quote marks around that phrase; no tiresome inquiry into the epistemological and ontological qualities you mean to evoke by such usage. I’m willing to roll with phrases like “planetary consciousness” in this instance.) It strikes me that you are consciously writing in a long and noble moral tradition, one that hearkens back to the Axial Age. ( )

My own encounters with writers such as Viktor Frankl, Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Thich Nhat Hanh and Albert Einstein have inculcated in me a fierce unapologetic humanism which rejects any and all ideological verities which seek to elevate autocratic thinking and institutions over the individual. As regards writers of fiction who have left a similarly profound mark I would point to such exemplars of excellence as Hemingway, Steinbeck, John Irving, Joyce Carol Oates, Pat Conroy, William Gay, Toni Morrison, et. al. (Far too many to enumerate here. I believe all writers with something to say eschew dogma and cant in favor of that “great honesty and probity of a priest of God” that Hemingway fingered as the requisite criteria of character and vitalism that informs and animates all lasting literary work.)

And yet . . . and yet . . . Is there not an element of pretension and narcissism in baldly stating to the reader that one hopes to “raise their consciousness” by one’s own writing? Is this not, perhaps, too “on-the-nose”, pseudo-Victorian (“This book lacks the essential moral uplift required of all great literature.”) and/or off-the-mark entirely as regards fiction? Is it not true that most people love being entertained and resent being educated? Returning to Nabokov’s observation that “it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer” (Salmon Rushdie, Umberto Ecco, Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Italo Calvino, et. al.) are we in danger of rending the fairy-like enchantment of the fictional dream by an all-too-obvious, overt hand orchestrating character and theme? On the other hand, does it smack of rank cowardice, evasion and duplicity to deny that one has any such intent or responsibility when we all know the profound and lasting impact well-written moral fiction (let’s embrace John Gardner’s unflinching and unapologetic term) can have on consciousness and behavior?

Questions, questions . . .

I am so very glad you raised them, Victor.


PS. I hope my respect for your approach to the craft is apparent in the words above. Your blog post is a rich one that could serve as a springboard for many future discussions; the tangential issues alone could keep us occupied for years.


Watch This Space.


I’ve been on vacation this past week. But I’ve not really been on vacation. I’ve been busy working on something. (And driving myself crazy.)

My moods swing from hopeful, to discouraged, to downright depressed. I’m finally attempting a finished illustration for Sly, rather than my usual screw-around preliminaries. What I have so far may do double duty as cover art and as a future paper doll. My big problem: I’d always envisioned something cleaner, more designed for the cover. My illustration is the visual equivalent of my writing – elaborate, packed with detail. No matter how I try to push/drag my style in another direction, it always weasels its way back to . . . well, you’ll see.

In my to-come image Sly, having finally been baptized, thus eligible, has been awarded Haute-Navarre’s highest honor. He has been admitted to an exclusive society, the Order of the Golden Ram, and he wears the order’s avatar on a chain around his neck. He holds one glove in his left hand, a convention of portraiture, a symbol of authority. It’s is not actually a glove, it is a fingerless gauntlet. In Italy (so I read) fingerless gloves were the hot new accessory. (Sly was always in the forefront of fashion.)

Sly determined to head north, King Jakome has had this formal portrait painted as a consolation. He’s lived with the animal for ten years and will miss him sorely. And I get to reinsert some of the nonsense I removed years ago depicting the cat’s interactions with a self-important portraitist and his (the cat’s) musings on his philosophy of art. This entire novella, without the baptism debacle, without the staged Virgin Mary visitation, with the Minister of the Treasury playing only a cameo role, once occupied three or four chapters, then we plunged immediately into the pirate episode. It’s all Book Country’s fault, scolding me for too much world-building, not enough action.

I am much taken with the cover of The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy During the Scientific Revolution. It features a detailed period engraving. I am halfway inclined to mimic that serious-stuff-here look – an extenuation of my faux-historic slant – and to sub-title my story: Half-Baked Reason And Full-Tilt Fancy At The Dawn Of The Scientific Revolution.

I am going to take the drawing into work Monday night and scan it on our 11×17 bed scanner, darker and lighter grey-scale, at various sizes, to see how it reduces/reads. At present I view it as no more than a foundational drawing, to be digitally enhanced. Tuesday morning I will replace the current graphic with the scanned (but not yet doctored) image. I plan to experiment with digital color washes, etc.

This stage has always been my stumbling block, and the reason I quit an illustration major in art school. I have never felt that my natural drawing style was a viable illustration style. I felt it was too tentative. I’m working on that. I’m trying to punch it up. The pain I’ve suffered this week, the insecurity, the self-doubt, harken back to my anxiety-ridden schooldays. But I’ve got to develop a methodology that works for me. It’s now or never.

I’m still not happy with a cascade of sash slung across Sly’s trunk, copied from a seventeenth-century bronze bust of a bug-eyed, big-mustachioed Swedish nobleman. I don’t make stuff up if I can help it. But my cats are not going to pose for me draped in an appropriately-sized shawl. When you transfer an article of clothing from a human to a cat, the anatomy very different, the arms, for instance, erupting from a different area of the body altogether, you have to invent a bit.

Keep calm, girl. You’ll get it eventually.

About Writers, book reviews, Research, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

A Question For Mimi

Mimi Speake is an historian of sixteenth century Europe & therabouts. She delves into the private lives of such as Bernard Délicieux, the Friar of Carcassonne and Henry of Navarre. Nothing seems to delight Mimi more than to accurately include in her stories obscure details about the financial information of a walled town from that period, or a seminal work on algebra, or even lore about La Fée Verte, the green fairy.
And uh, Mimi is the only historian I know. So, I have a question for her.

Is Google messing with history? Not on purpose. But is that repository of human knowledge fatally flawed because of what it does not include?

I ask because I recently searched for early reviews of Arthur C. Clarke’s first book, Against the Fall of Night, published by Startling Stories magazine in 1948. Despite the story itself being vintage Clarke, the novella was initially panned for its word dumps of the author’s social theories. They added nothing to the story. I know this because I read it as a kid and I still remember my eyes glassing over the pages of preaching.
A few years ago, I re-read it. The book that I re-read said it had been published only because fans had expressed interest in reading Clarke’s first novel. It’s forward discussed Against the Fall of Night’s initial reception (dismal) and included some of those early reviews (bad.)

But Google has unwittingly rewritten history. I cannot find any of those original reviews. The Fall of Night is today presented as if it hadn’t bombed; as if it is just another good book by Clarke, even though he had to rewrite it in 1956 as The City and the Stars.

I know. I know. Google is not a complete history of anything. It is only a collection of whatever bits people put on the ‘Net. (But I wonder how many people think about things that are not on the Internet.)

So, Mimi, if I may follow-up, how do you find information that is not on Google?

And for everyone, a broader question:
To what extent are search engine results and social media the background against which we frame our questions? Do they guide the answers that we accept?
In short, does the Internet shape our collective consciousness?

About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Writing to Raise Consciousness—Meaning and Intent

“Writing to Raise Consciousness”–it’s my tagline, my author branding. Since I write both fiction and nonfiction, it might seem challenging to wrap both types of writing into the same package. Eyebrows raise, faces morph into puzzled expressions, and people ask the obvious: “What do you mean? What do you mean when you make a statement saying you want to write in ways that raise consciousness? Please explain…”

Ask ten people to define “consciousness” and you will likely get ten different answers. Even among scholars who study consciousness from scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical perspectives, there is little agreement about what consciousness actually is. Without agreed upon definitional characteristics, how do I attempt to raise or elevate something we are not clear about and may not even be able to measure or quantify at all? It isn’t like raising the temperature of something through a process of heating. It isn’t like inciting a riot with inflammatory rhetoric. Physics and sociology have ways of measuring those processes.

Is this a blind men problem—trying to describe an elephant, each with only a fragmented understanding? Is this some sort of dark matter/dark energy construct—useful in trying to understand something we really do not understand? Am I deluding myself in thinking I can write ‘stuff’ that is going to actually raise consciousness? To complicate matters further, while playing my own Devil’s Advocate, if one believes consciousness is infinite and beyond constructs of space and time, then you cannot raise, elevate, expand, or increase it in any way. X + infinity still = infinity. In some ways, it is a thorny thicket.

Despite these challenges, I do not back down from my intent to raise consciousness through my writing, nor do I move from my belief that I can actually do so. The method to achieve this works at different levels or dimensions. It also hopefully works on both individual and collective consciousness.

The first level is rather simple and straightforward. There is widespread agreement that a relationship exists between consciousness and awareness. Precisely what that relationship is can be difficult to say, but for purposes of this argument, let us simply posit that awareness and consciousness are related. If I write something about a particular social ill such as violence, or racism, or children sex-slaves, and my writing (fiction or nonfiction) calls attention to this social ill, makes people more aware of the problem, I have raised consciousness at this level.

There is a long history of literature calling attention to social injustice. To name a few examples:

  • The horror of war—Johnny Got Your Gun
  • Racial prejudice—To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Exploitation of immigrants—The Jungle

There is another type of ‘calling attention to an issue’ that goes beyond social ills. Authors often write about potential problems that might occur in order to raise awareness, to get readers to think about a particular issue. What if artificial intelligence got out of control as in Terminator? What would an Orwellian 1984 future of government control and propaganda be like? These topics are often explored in speculative fiction. Robert Heinlein, one of my favorite science fiction authors, often addresses social themes in his writing. In many ways, his writing helps to raise consciousness at this first level. My science fiction novel, Sentient, calls attention to certain social themes. Isolation/separation and how this contributes to competition over cooperation, how we treat people with mental illness, and acculturation to violence are just a few of the issues I touch upon. In my nonfiction book, Pathways to Health, I am asking readers to think about health in a different way, to recognize the distortions and limitations that characterize our beliefs about our own health and how we can achieve better health.

What underlies this first-level approach to raising consciousness is to call attention, to get the reader to notice or to think about something in an introspective way. The process is one of raising awareness so as to effect change. The change may be in a belief, an action or behavior of some sort. This touches upon the second-level, i.e. evolution. I’ll loosely go with a broad definition of evolution as the gradual development of something. The key piece here is “development”–something that occurs as change over time. In this sense, writing to raise consciousness represents an effort to support and promote the evolution of consciousness both on an individual and collective level.

This type of development follows a sequence, much the same as a child first learns to crawl, then walk, then run. This represents increasing motor skill and developmental maturity. On a psychological level, the ego develops along a sequence of self-centered ‘me’ to expanding awareness of others–family, nation, the world, the universe. This is a natural progression of awareness and an evolution of consciousness. This change is accompanied by new ways of thinking, believing, and behaving.

A similar developmental sequence occurs as part of spiritual growth and maturation. Some teachings explain this spiritual evolution as following a path toward enlightenment. I am particularly fond of Integral Theory and how it characterizes the different stages of growth and development along a psycho-spiritual evolution (outward) and involution (inward) path. I am also fond of David Hawkins’ Map of Human Consciousness that delineates characteristic thoughts, beliefs, and actions accompanying each developmental stage of the evolution of consciousness. When I write, sometimes I intend to raise consciousness by getting readers to think differently, to challenge beliefs, to expand and grow in their consciousness. In some ways this represents personal growth and transformation toward a higher level of consciousness. I have often had this experience myself when reading the wisdom of a variety of spiritual teachers. Some of the chapters in my book, Health Wise—Integral Lessons in Transformation, are specifically targeted towards raising consciousness at this second level.

I’ll touch upon the third level more briefly. I also write with the intention of raising consciousness in a much more indigenous way. My explanation thus far has focused on raising awareness and consciousness at the individual level and more broadly at the collective level of society. I also believe that there is a planetary aspect to consciousness that also follows a developmental or evolutionary sequence. The term, “Noosphere” was first coined by Teilhard de Chardin. Basically, you can think of this as not only our specie’s, but the entire planet’s collective consciousness. Such consciousness exists as part of an entire cosmic consciousness. Our planet’s noosphere is evolving towards an expanded capacity as part of the natural evolution of planetary consciousness. This theory/belief is expounded upon in some detail by José Argüelles in his book, Manifesto for the Noosphere.

Many have written about the great shift in consciousness occurring during these times. Rather than writing about this shift or about the noosphere, I am writing with the specific desire of facilitating the shift to occur, to making my small contribution toward the evolution of our planetary consciousness. My individual consciousness, my thoughts and behaviors, and specifically my writing are all generally intended towards promoting the expansion of the noosphere. In my book, Sentient, when I am writing about telepathy and collective consciousness, these are processes associated with the noosphere. Yet, whether or not anyone reads anything that I have written, anything that I do, write, or even think potentially influences the collective planetary consciousness at this third level.

Complicated…straightforward…perfectly muddy? I don’t expect the typical reader to really understand what I mean by, “Writing to Raise Consciousness”. In some ways, it doesn’t matter if a reader understands my intent, my goal. What matters to me is whether or not something I have written has the intended outcome. Does it work? Am I successful in achieving my goal? I don’t know for sure, but if you are at least thinking about these things, feeling a bit introspective, wondering about your own consciousness or the greater collective consciousness, then perhaps I have had some small success. I think of this effort applied in three different dimensions at which I can potentially raise consciousness. In some small way, I hope what I have written has been instrumental in raising your consciousness…