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Afterlife Conversations With Ken Kesey (and Others) by William Bedivere resonates as an authentic, luminous and inspired conversation with the famous deceased author

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a slim volume of about 100 pages but is has the impact of a book perhaps 300 or 400 pages. It’s a major challenge to review because so many issues present themselves, sometimes even in a single paragraph.

In fact, I’ll go as far to say that there is “hidden” information encoded within certain tracts of this document – but am I going to discuss that? No way. (I’ll reserve that for the advanced class, another time).

Let me try to zero in here on a few things:

So this is a book in which author WILLIAM BEDIVERE has made contact with the afterlife personality of the writer Ken Kesey, most famous for his novels One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. Both books were adapted to popular Hollywood films. Cuckoo’s Nest was a huge critical and financial success, winning the Oscar for Best Film in 1975, and several other Academy Awards.

Of course, Kesey’s other fame was that of counterculture icon status fueled by his high-profile LSD-soaked exploits that became a central element of the Hippy generation of the 1960s.

Kesey died in 2001 at age 66.

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Ken Kesey, photo by Brian Lanky

What’s utterly fascinating about this book is how the “Kesey Personality” at first comes on strong and feisty, spouting lots of groovy, wavy gravy pronouncements typical of hallucinogen-informed concepts and representing Kesey’s (early) lifetime personality.

He raves about the “War On Drugs,” framing it as a power struggle between the forces of evil (it’s the usual suspects: the government, CIA, establishment pigs, fearful fundamentalists, take your pick …) against those courageous Consciousness-O-Nauts who would dare smash the status quo by cracking the Collective Cosmic Egg of humanity with a selected line-up psychotropic kickers.

But then as the pages melt by, the Kesey Personality gradually recedes, giving way to a consciously expanded, yet softer Group-Mind Entity that continues to hold forth with mellower, yet profound transcendent concepts.

This transition is highly significant and provides an important insight into what all of us need to understand about the nature of our existence, who and what we are, the nature of the afterlife — and I’ll expand on this more in a bit.

But first, the big issue that must always been dealt with for manuscripts which purport to offer information coming from the dead is the question of authenticity. This is especially true for those readers who are new to what traditionally has been called “spirit writings” or “automatic writing” but in our New Age is more often called “channeling” or maybe just “after-death communications.”

This document conveys all the tell-tale signs of authenticity – that is – I’m satisfied that the author is in no way a charlatan spinning tails of pure imagination, or simply attempting to leverage his familiarity with Kesey’s works to create a narrative that merely parrots what a deceased version of the author might have to say.

One such marker of the bona fides is a measure of the author’s agony. In this case we can feel the nagging pain of Mr. Bedivere dripping off the pages. A plodding kind of existential angst smolders throughout, and even more so, a plaintive longing for … for … what is beyond … and for meaning.

Those famous lines from that George Harrison song comes to mind:

Now, I really want to see you

Really want to be with you

Really want to see you lord

But it takes so long, my lord

When you combine this painfully urgent need to know, to understand, to seek, to find, to discover, to explore – with the one of the worst sufferings of them all – self-doubt – then you get some measure of the intellectual courage it takes to take on these kinds of tasks, and where you find courage, you’ll find authenticity.

Again, the author demonstrates all of the above. (As novelist Rita Mae Brown said, “A writer cannot hide on the page”). So, I am impressed with an overwhelming sense that what we have here is a genuine afterdeath contact and dialogue with, yes, the “real” Ken Kesey – although I beg the reader not to over-simply who or what the “real” Ken Kesey might be.

After our physical body dies, the consciousness that is the ego-based personality survives. NASA physicist and early MONROE INSTITUTE research pioneer TOM CAMPBELL calls this a “Free Will Awareness Unit.” (FAU) (I’m borrowing a couple of Campbell’s terms here because he has coined some of the most lucid and descriptive jargon for all of this).

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Tom Campbell “It’s all just data.”

The FAU is part of or an aspect of an Individuated Unit of Consciousness (IUC) – this is the aspect of the person who “operated” the FAU while it was “alive” in physical 3-D reality. The ICU is not in physical reality, but in the nonphysical realm composed of Consciousness.

The IUC in turn is almost certainly a part of a larger organized system of consciousness that we might call an “Oversoul” (a more traditional term, not Campbell’s). The Oversoul if a kind of “group mind” being that encompassed dozens, hundreds, but most likely thousands of “people” or individuals that also once manifested in our 3-D physical reality as Freewill Awareness Units (people) here on our planet Earth.

And I could continue going “up the ladder” to higher and more complex organizations of consciousness, indeed, all the way to “The One” or “All That Is” – but that is a long journey indeed, so let’s stop here.

So when a medium, or someone like our writer William Bedivere, makes contact with a specific individual, in this case the famous Ken Kesey, he can at times be communicating with:

• That which was the Freewill Awareness Unit that was Ken Kesey.

• That which was is the IUC, the Individuated Unit of Consciousness that operated the FAU of Ken Kesey.

• Both the FAU and IUC at the same time.

• The Oversoul of Ken Kesey

• Those continuing upper levels of “Group Consciousness” organizations to which all the “lower” Ken Kesey elements belong.

• All of the above.

What is clearly demonstrated in this book is how the author comes to get a sense of this larger multidimensional nature of the Kesey personality. The “Greater Ken Kesey Consciousness Organization” (my term) slowly reveals itself as the pages go on from beginning to end of this book.

There is something important to point out here:

If we want to, we can focus our conversation with a deceased individual on communication that is strictly limited to just the Freewill Awareness Unit, or that which was the ego-based consciousness once manifested in 3-D, physical matter reality.

But can it be said that this “version” of Ken Kesey is the actual Ken Kesey?

The answer is mostly “Yes!” but it comes with this critical distinction, or perhaps acknowledgement:

The “real” Ken Kesey” has actually moved on to other, higher realms of consciousness. His mission on earth is done. He has little no reason to just hang around for years on end merely in the event that someone like William Bedivere (or anyone) wants to have a conversation with him.

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However, we can still have a perfectly legitimate communication with that individual we once knew as Ken Kesey, as he once was. That’s because we can connect with the sum total of the “data” that was once Ken Kesey – Tom Campbell calls this a “supremely complete probability record” of Ken Kesey.

This “supremely complete probability record” might be compared to a computer file that has been saved, but it is an utterly complete file that contains absolutely everything that Ken Kesey once was down to the very last atom, electron, neutron, quark – everything! So in essence, IT IS KEN KESEY – albeit a perfect “saved copy” of the original.

Let me emphasize, even though the “real Ken Kesey” has moved on, this “supremely complete probability record” that we can now communicate with is in fact Ken Kesey because it is an absolutely total, perfect and “supremely complete” copy of what was once the “real” Ken Kesey.

(Note: For an excellent discussion about the legitimacy of a “perfect copy” of a human being after death and “resurrection,” see this book: The Physics of Immortality, by Temple University Professor of Physics, Dr. Frank Tipler).

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Note that because the “real Ken Kesey” has moved on, the “Perfect Copy” of Ken Kesey that was once his Freewill Awareness Unit no longer has free will – although it can seem like it has free will because it can answer our questions based on an almost infinite number of probability choices.

For example, we can ask a question in 10 different ways with 10 different intents, and the FAU of Ken Kesey will respond differently to each one based on the nature of our intent and the way we ask the question. But left to itself, the FAU of Ken Kesey cannot innovate on its own because the “real” Ken Kesey has moved on and the FAU is now a “closed system.” However, innovation and free will awareness can“bleed” into the responses we get if higher aspects of the FAU get involved.

A spectacular example of this is the work of author FRANK DEMARCO He has engaged in extensive afterdeath conversations with the deceased writer Ernest Hemingway. It’s proper to bring DeMarco into this conversation here because Mr. Bedivere acknowledges DeMarco as the inspiration for his work with Kesey.

Bevidere is a reader of DeMarco’s blog, where he engages in ongoing conversations with a variety of afterdeath personalities. (Find DeMarco’s blog here: I OF MY OWN KNOWLEDGE.)

This includes an in-depth conversations with the deceased Hemingway. DeMarco has also published a book of his conversations with the great American author titled, AFTERLIFE CONVERSATIONS WITH HEMINGWAY. (See my review of that book HERE.)

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In my opinion — and perhaps DeMarco himself may not agree totally – the bulk of the information DeMarco is channeling from “Hemingway” is that “saved copy” of what was once the Hemingway Freewill Awareness Unit – although from time to time, “higher aspects” of the Multidimensional Hemingway do come forth to further inform (and innovate with free will) the communications between DeMarco and Hemingway.

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Frank DeMarco

However, most of the time it seems to be DeMarco’s intent is to keep his communication with Hemingway focused as close as possible with only the ego-based Hemingway we know from history. That’s because DeMarco is fascinated with commentary on the life and times of the “real, physical” Hemingway, and the specifics of his body of literary works, his politics, beliefs, etc.

If DeMarco “intended” more or otherwise, he could certainly “climb the Multidimensional Hemingway ladder, so to speak. (And sometimes he does, I speculate).

The case is similar with this book on communication with Ken Kesey.

Another example I must mention is that of Jane Roberts, author of the famous Seth books. Roberts also channeled a book-length document in cooperation with a great deceased personality, that of philosopher and proto-psychologist William James, producing, The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher. The book is a masterpiece.

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What’s interesting to note is that Roberts was highly circumspect about just who or “what” she was actually communicating with. She speculated that she was not so much having a conversation with the “real spirit” of William James, but rather the existent and detached “World View” of William James, which was somehow stored out there in the greater realms of the Conscious Universe – this sounds an awful lot like Campbell’s model, the Freewill Awareness Unit.

ANYWAY …

Anyway, I have rambled on far too long, and yet, have not touched on even a fraction of the rich load of material and implications suggested by this intriguing manuscript.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Mr. Bedivere’s book is well written. And don’t be quick credit for the lively prose to Ken Kesey – far from it! I can guarantee that the credit belongs to Mr. Bedivere, but if I try to explain why, I’ll be off and running through several more pages.

I should also mention that are instances of true hilarity! In a couple of cases, Mr. Bedivere sees fit to ask his transcendent connection with an ascended great author incredibly mundane questions – such as what to do with a problem he is having with his taxes! Ha, ha! It’s great!

On another occasion, Bedivere asks for advice on what to do about some very typical marriage problems his daughter is having – and here Kesey coughs up:

a) A bit of non-advice, and,

a) b) A dollop of sensationally bad advice!

Oh man, it’s so funny!

Never discount humor as an important marker of authentic afterdeath communication, or the channeling of legitimate transcendent information. I’m reminded of philosopher Bertrand Russell who said that he was troubled that the Bible seemed to contain no humor, and at least for him, that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Holy Book.

Ahhhh … I wish I could go on and on … but it’s past time that I pull the chain (as they say in the Hood). Suffice it to say I consider this small book a gem, and authentic example of afterlife communication that bears reading and rereading, each time delivering a different set of insights to the open-minded, yet skeptical, but always intuitive-oriented reader.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Lost on the Skinwalker Ranch by Erick T. Rhetts is an intriguing true tale of bizarre events in northern Utah

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This book purports to tell of true events of extraordinary paranormal happenings in a remote region of Utah. The author grants that slight fictional elements have been employed for the sake of telling the story more smoothly.

Just a few years ago I would have been mostly skeptical of the strange events described here, but subsequent study and research, including conducting my own personal investigations of similar claims, lead me to conclude that all or most of this is likely true – it all really happened.

Telling his story through a ghostwriter, a retired career military man takes a job as a security guard on some property in northern Utah, a 500-acre plot which is owned by none other than Bob Bigelow.

If you are a dyed-in-the wool UFO junkie (like me) you will know that anything associated with the name of billionaire Bob Bigelow is inextricably tied to the endlessly multifaceted, layers-deep and conspiracy-infested universe of ufology, government black-ops and secret space programs.

The book reports that Bigelow purchased the 500-acre cold, dusty property in northern Utah precisely because of its reputation as a UFO hot spot, not to mention centuries of reports (including a rich legacy of Native American lore/religion) telling of bizarre phenomenon, from orbs and strange energy manifestations, to bizarre creatures sighted moving in and out of portholes to alternate dimensions.

Let me just say that the hero of our story in this book has many occasions to encounter much of the above in his job a night watchman on the grounds of this freakishly-haunted property.

I won’t go into more details of what this guy encountered because I don’t want to issue a spoiler alert, except to say I was intrigued and did not expect what the “main event” of his experience turned out to be.

I am delighted when a book of paranormal phenomenon can surprise me and deliver something beyond all the standard stuff – UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot — we’re accustomed to reading about. The idiosyncratic nature of the events described here and a rich detailing of the smaller incidentals add to the credibility of the narrative.

This book is available as a Kindle Unlimited selection, so if you subscribe to that, this is a good chance to get it for a fast read. It took me only a long evening to breeze through from first page to last. The quality of the writing is quite good – a no-nonsense clear and lucid style just tells the tale, while also putting us into the scenes effortlessly with minimal but vivid description of landscapes and the other minor players, all of whom come alive as “characters” taking part in the strange events.

Erick T. Rhetts is the pseudonym of a guy who has produced a number of similar titles on similar topics. Some simple Internet sleuthing reveals to me that Mr. Rhetts is freelance writer located in Patchogue, New York. He claims authorship of this book on his LiknedIn Page under his real name, which I will let anyone here investigate for themselves if they are dying to know.

Whatever the case and whomever the author, this is a worthy little gem to add to your collection of titles exploring bizarre phenomenon and paranormal topics.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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No serious indie writer should be without this book on how to self-publish and sell a lot of books

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

My favorite saying in the writing business is:

“It takes a certain brilliance to write a book, but it takes a genius to sell that book.”

Well, that means that MARTIN CROSBIE is some kind of genius because he sells a lot of books. Even Amazon.com itself named him one of their “success stories” among self-publishers in 2012.

Now this ingenious indie author wants to help other wannabe writers sell their books. This offering, HOW I SOLD 30,000 eBOOKS ON AMAZON KINDLE is jammed-packed with advice on how to climb that mountain.

Crosbie not only knows how to sell books, he knows how to sell what he’s selling. For example, I like this bit from the early pages:

“Due to a number of factors, and luck was certainly one of them, in February of 2012 the book I wrote in the spare bedroom of my house, that over one hundred and thirty agents and publishers didn’t want, hit Amazon’s top ten overall bestseller list and stayed there for a week … I sold about eighteen thousand e-books that month. And I made $46,000.”

Yeah baby! Let me tell you, that kind of talk is absolute catnip for struggling writers everywhere. Do you know how many people want to take a ride like that with a book they labored to write in a spare bedroom in their spare time while the kids were howling, the dishes were piling up in the sink and bill collectors knocking at the door?

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Canadian indie author Martin Crosbie

But while Mr. Crosbie shows us the juicy carrot, he also gets out the stick and proceeds page after page to give writers the sobering drubbing they need and deserve – and by that I mean, he shows how writing is hard work, and selling your writing is even harder – and yet, he does it with an infectious enthusiasm that will get readers excited about what is possible.

Yes, it’s an encouraging book. Motivating!

Most of all, this book is loaded with terrific advice, solid step-by-step instructions and meaty insights gleaned from his own successes and bitter failures on his road to achieving a significant measure of publishing success.

From the importance of editing (he really hammers away on this), to the vital factor of navigating the jungles of social media, to book cover design, to developing relationships with other key players in the field – and much more – no indie writer today can afford NOT to know about this stuff, and more importantly, take action and actually DO this stuff.

I borrowed this book for free using my Amazon Prime account, but it’s so loaded with advice and an excellent collection of resource links in the back, I’m going to go ahead and buy a permanent copy.

I’ve been a successful full-time freelance writer for 30 years now, and I’ve learned how to survive (and sometimes thrive) – but even someone like me can’t afford to be without a book like this on my shelf — and neither can you if you want to quit your day job and make it in the world of writing and publishing.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Michael Siemsen’s new novel “Exigency” is a thrilling science fiction romp

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

For the 347,098,789th time in science fiction, an intrepid crew of brilliant scientists/astronauts crash land on a distant planet, and now must struggle to survive in an exotic environment populated by multiple species of aliens, some hostile, some not so hostile, and others that just fill out the flora and fauna of an alien world.

No, there is little cutting-edge invention in this latest offering by rising SF star MICHAEL SIEMSEN. It’s all tried-and-true formula stuff with the same themes that have been explored time and again since the creation of the genre.

Even one of the most intriguing plot elements – the way which an alien species achieved a fast track to superior intelligence – has been done before. The very same situation was brilliantly employed by Jack Vance in his 1973 novel, The Asutra. (I won’t tell you any more about this because I don’t want to issue a spoiler alert.)

My point is, like most new works of science fiction today, EXIGENCY stays safely ensconced within the broad parameters of science fiction solidified over the past century, and especially during the “Golden Age” of science fiction.

But you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with formula fiction as long as we have a writer who is up to the task of making it all seem fresh and stimulating again.

Think of it like blues music. It’s all based on just one fundamental riff: “dah-de, dah-de, dah-dah.” The challenge then is to take that basic form and innovate within it to keep making it seem new, reborn and freshly alive. Hundreds of artists have done it. “The Blues” never go out of style.

I’m happy to say that Exigency not only makes what’s old in science fiction exciting, vibrant and new – but it’s also thrilling and fun.

I found this novel to be engaging and enjoyable from first page to last. The reason why it works is:

• Well-developed characters that we instantly care about. The primary character Minnie (Minerva) is complex. She is at once brilliant, warm and likable, but just as often, cold, self-absorbed and exasperating. She is courageous, tough and talented beyond belief – but also struggles with a debilitating Achilles heel. So she has everything you want in a SF heroine, and maybe some things you don’t want – which, in turn makes for top-notch fiction.

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Michael Siemsen

• Almost from the beginning Siemsen expertly builds relationships between his characters (without ever letting the pace drag). This provides an emotional cohesion that is necessary to sustain our interest in the characters as they face their various challenges to survive on an alien world.

• A fully-realized, vividly imagined world that has a depth which not always apparent to the reader up-front, but which looms offstage in a way we can feel intuitively, yet without belaboring us literally.

• The writing is tight – there is very little in the way of exposition, which is the downfall of so many lesser science fiction writers.

• Aliens that are sufficiently alien, yet not so bizarre and exotic as to be entirely un-relatable. This is yet another tried-and-true element of science fiction which, although nothing new, is necessary to sustain the relationship with the reader.

• Plot – well, okay, there really isn’t much of a plot. It can be summed up as: “Stranded space travelers struggling to survive a harsh, alien environment. Will they make it?” But – yes, I’m going to say it – you don’t always need a strong plot to make for an absorbing, exciting read. (To hell with all of those literary snobs who would tell you different). After all, science fiction has always been the “literature of ideas” which separates it from the requirements of mainstream fiction.

But wait a minute, didn’t I already say there were precious few new “ideas” in this novel. Yes, I did, but it’s still a thumping read – and that means Michael Siemsen just has “that undefinable something” that enables him to write a terrific, captivating novel.

It reminds me of the great science fiction editor John Campbell, the famously imperious and despotic leader of Astounding Science Fiction, and the time in the late 1930s when he read a story submitted by A.E. Van Vogt.

The short novel was “The Weapon Shop.” According to ALEXEI PANSHIN, writing in his book The World Beyond the Hill, a study of science fiction:

“… the story proved to have a very strange effect on the editor. As he was reading this novelet, he recognized that he was enjoying it thoroughly. But when Campbell attempted to analyze the story intellectually, he just couldn’t see why it should be so effective.”

Panshin later explains why Van Vogt’s works can invoke such a magical effect on many readers (but completely turn off others) – and all I will say here is that the reason Siemsen’s novel is so enjoyable (and perhaps not so much for others) is due to a similar (similar but not exactly the same) effect.

But I’m not going to go into that further here – this review is already way too long.

In the final analysis – because of what science fiction is today, where it has come from and where it is going – what we truly need to make for a thoroughly enjoyable read is an author who has that certain “Van-Vogt-Like-Effect” that makes us want to keep turning the pages, and wishing that a 400-plus tome such as this was even a 100 pages longer.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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J.R. Tomlin writes a gripping crime thriller set in medieval Scotland: “The Templar’s Cross” is a fine, fast read

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The Templar’s Cross is a tightly-written murder mystery set in 15th Century Scotland.

It moves along briskly and will keep readers turning the pages. Author J.R. TOMLIN vividly recreates a late medieval Perth, an ancient city of central Scotland situated on the River Tay.

Under Tomlin’s pen, the Perth of 1424 comes alive in all of its dreary, muddy, damp and noisy vitality – streets are filled with common folk, peasants and barking marketers selling kale, leeks and bloody cuts of butchered meats, as well as crusts of bread and the occasional spicy sausage.

Our hero is a Scottish Knight who is damaged goods. Sir Law Kintour was badly injured fighting the English in France at the Battle of Verneui – now back in Scotland sporting a bad limp, he is desperate to find a new patron to fight for, but who wants to hire a crippled knight?

Holed up in a drafty, seedy room above a lowly tavern, Sir Law’s luck suddenly turns when he receive a visit from a mysterious stranger who has a job for him – but it’s not the kind of work befitting a battle-tested knight.

Desperate for coin, Sir Law agrees to take on a mission which quickly embroils him in a double-murder mystery. Worse yet, he quickly becomes a prime suspect. Now he must solve the murders in just days or hang for the grisly crimes himself!

This is the second J.R. Tomlin novel I have read. I thought the first, FREEDOM’S SWORD, was an okay read, but with this offering, Tomlin shows that she has grown considerably into her craft. She is emerging as a polished writer with an excellent feel for pacing, command of place and subject, and an ability to captivate readers — immersing us in a long-past era of history that comes alive in all of its harsh majesty.

I think it’s inevitable that ‘Templar’s Cross’ will be compared with the hugely best-selling ‘Hangman’s Daughter’ by German author Oliver Pötzsch, also a murder mystery set in a grimy European city of antiquity – if ‘Templar’s’ is perhaps not as richly imagined as ‘Hangman’, it has better pacing, is more tightly written and leaves us hungry for more.

In fact, that’s my only (very minor) complaint about this book – it ends in a satisfying bang, but truly begs for an epilogue. Tomlin misses an opportunity to not only “cool down’ her readers, but to also let us enjoy a satisfying mug of ale with Sir Law as he warms his aching bones next to a peat fire while munching on a spicy sausage – as he contemplates his next mission.

But, whatever – when a writer leaves us eagerly wanting more, that means ‘mission accomplished.’ You have that feeling that you’ve just enjoyed a great book.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Psychologist Frederick Aardema advances the study of the out-of-body experience to a new level

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

In the pantheon of books about astral travel or out-of-body experiences (OBEs) published during the past century, this book by Canadian psychologist FREDERICK AARDEMA is an instant classic.

(Click here to find book): EXPLORATIONS IN CONSCIOUSNESS

Finally we have an in-depth treatment of the subject from an academic with rock-solid credentials. Aardema is a researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology.

He is well-published in peer reviewed journals, and is considered an expert in obsessive-compulsive disorders, delusional disorders, cognition and much more.

But even though this is a book written by a bona fide academic, it is anything but dry, technical and clinical. It’s often thrilling, deeply intriguing and just plain fun. Aardema regales us with his many personal accounts of inducing his own OBEs. His travels take him to exotic, stunning and bizarre locales that may actually exist “out there” in … in … what or where?

The astral realms? The non-physical universe? The realm of pure mind? How about I borrow a term from NASA physicist TOM CAMPBELL, who was one of Robert Monroe’s early key researchers: “The Larger Consciousness System.”

Here is what is exciting about this book for me: It shows that major cracks are developing in hardcore, rational-materialist scientific paradigm that has held an iron grip on the world for some 400 years – and especially since Isaac Newton gave us a “clockwork universe” or “billiard ball world.”

The fact that a mainstream psychologist such as Dr. Aardema can feel free to publish a book which just a few years ago would have been scorned as “New Age fluff” is of enormous significance. It means he has the freedom to explore a subject on the scientific fringe in a highly personal way while retaining professional position and peer respect.

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Frederick Aardema, Ph.D.

It means our world is changing. Furthermore, it’s the kind of change that is on par with the Copernican Revolution itself, or the advent of quantum mechanics, which finally challenged the utter dominance of Newtonian physics – but the latter of which still holds tremendous psychological sway, despite more than 100 years of quantum theory.

Aardema is at least willing to entertain a stunning proposal: That human consciousness is not centered or produced within the physical human brain. Rather, consciousness may be “non-local.” What we think of as our thoughts, emotion, experiences and all the rest may not be coming out of physical brain matter – but rather is being “tuned in” by the brain, almost as if it were acting as a radio receiver, or perhaps a “constraint.”

The implications of this are beyond gigantic. If our own minds to not have an origins in the physical brains, well, that opens to door to all kinds of possibilities, not the least of which is that we never die. It means that which has been traditionally called a “soul,” or “spirit” may be a phenomenon of consciousness. When the body and brain die, consciousness lives on – including our own individual consciousness.

At the same time, Aardema is not taking wildly unfettered flights of New Age fancy; he remains grounded and pays heed to the notion that, despite all, the materialists may yet be right, or not entirely defeated after all.

Again and again, Aardema qualifies his statements and personal experiences by reminding us that there still may be a physical-matter-only explanation for what one experiences during an OBE – it’s still a possibility that this is a brain-only event – akin to a lucid dream, perhaps, or maybe because the human psyche is just much more vast and capable of producing exotic experience than ever before imagined.

At the end of the day I think it will be difficult for the reader to believe that Aardema isn’t siding with the non-materialist, non-local consciousness point of view – that ROBERT MONROE was correct in his famous statement:

“I am more than my physical body. Because I am more than my physical body, I can experience that which is greater than my physical self.”

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Robert Monroe

Aardema pays homage to Robert Monroe throughout this book, but also points out where Monroe might have gotten some things wrong. Even so, he clearly admires Monroe – and why not?

Robert Monroe wasn’t exactly a New Age flake either. He was a grounded, successful businessman who made millions in the radio and cable TV business. He was most likely an atheist (or certainly an agnostic) before the OBE phenomenon came into his life unexpectedly. Those who knew him said he had the mental process of a “technical-minded engineer.” (Campbell)

Monroe wasn’t a scientist or academic, but when he began to study the OBE, he was smart enough to surround himself with brilliant men and women, two of the most significant were the aforementioned Tom Campbell (who worked in missile defense and as a long-time consultant to NASA), and an electrical engineer, Dennis Mennerich. Also on Monroe’s team were psychologists, nurses, social workers, artists – ordinary, stable, intelligent folks with open minds and a burning desire to explore.

The result was that Monroe was able to lift the OBE out of the world of the occult and give it a more mainstream posture, although Aardema rightfully points out that Monroe was still somewhat influenced by the esoteric influences of the past, from ancient mysticism to more recent groups, such as the Theosophists – which included the likes of Madam Blavatsky, C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant.

But Monroe’s work – and the ongoing research at the MONROE INSTITUTE which he founded – remains an almost necessary pivotal point around which serious scientists such as Aardema must leverage if they want to push the study of the OBE into new territory.

In the last chapter of the book Aardema gives instruction to anyone who would also like to explore the OBE for themselves. His methods are simple and direct, but readers will find them challenging in there actual execution. Aardema suggests there may be as much art as there is method in OBE practice.

Robert Monroe produced a trilogy of books about the OBE, and Aardema meets a figure (a wise old man) on one of his trips “out there” who tells him that he, too, is destined to produce a trilogy of OBE books.

Let’s hope this comes true.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Author Jimmy Olsen’s “Things In Ditches” will be the best murder mystery novel you have read in years — I guarantee it

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

If you’re an avid murder-mystery fan, or love crime novels, drop everything you are doing right now and purchase this book. Don’t even finish reading my review. Get the book now.

THINGS IN DITCHES by Minnesota writer JIMMY OLSEN is simply fantastic entertainment – a novel so well-crafted, so loaded with twists and turns, so darkly funny, but also with moments of serious psychological rigor – that it should have claimed a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

Well, um, maybe it did, I don’t know: This book was first issued 15 years ago, and then seems to have been reissued again in 2010, Whatever the case, the best books are timeless, and this one still reads as fresh as the June kale in my garden.

It’s the story of the murder of an achingly lovely blonde woman whose strangled body is found in a ditch just outside a small Minnesota town. Olsen has us going right from the start by introducing us to the killer on the very first page. Even so, I doubt that the savviest Sherlock Holmesian murder-mystery solver will be able to guess what is really going on here.

Take it from me — a guy who grew up in a northern Minnesota town of 700 people — Olsen brilliantly captures the cultural texture of that unique fabric which makes up a tiny Minnesota community of just a few hundred folks.

But wait, there’s something even better. Olsen doesn’t settle for mere reality. A true wordsmith understands that writing is art, and so there is just a molecular thin layer of fictional unreality spread over this depiction of small-town life.

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Jimmy Olsen

This fictional patina adds an almost imperceptible shimmer that makes ordinary semi-rural folks seem just slightly extraordinary – and this in turn makes for a read that is more fun, more dark, more light, more funny, more sad – in a way that gives us just a slightly deeper peek through the veil, so to speak.

At the risk of blathering on with too much literary analysis, I just want to mention one more thing: Genuinely talented novelists understand that there is no such thing as a minor character. I read more than 120 books per year, and I would estimate that 95% of writers don’t understand this – yet it is so critically important.

Most writers think that if a main character goes into a convenience store, the store clerk can be some throw-away cardboard prop — no need to describe, or flesh out a quick character sketch. But that’s an incredible missed opportunity to add an element of richness to a novel.

But look at the way Jimmy Olsen describes a character who appears for just one brief scene in a couple of pages:

“Curtis Rylander had the sloping forehead of an ape. He also had a bad complexion, skin craters ripe with raw zits and pus-laden whiteheads. Curtis wore a stocking cap even, in summer, to hide his head.”

Curtis Rylander is in the narrative for about 10 seconds but he comes instantly alive!

I must also mention a scene where the author enlists another minor character that just happens to be a timber wolf – again, not just an anonymous beast loping through the woods – Olsen brings the animal to life so vividly and skillfully that it reads like a stand-alone short story – and a short story worthy of Jack London himself!

Reading along I kept saying to myself: This is just a brilliant book!

Having said the above, I must now say I came razor close to issuing my “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty” to this author for certain transgressions, but first let me explain “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty.”

The ancient carpet weavers of the Persian Empire, beginning in the 8th Century, are renowned for creating the most exquisite rugs in the world. But these master artisans always purposefully included an intentional flaw in each rug – sometimes just a single stitch.

The reason they did so was because they believed that creating something too perfect would be an affront to God.

Well, this book contains not one – but two – teeny-tiny flaws worthy of “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty” – but I have opted not to issue these citations today because … well, I’ve just read a great book, I have been thoroughly entertained, and I’m in a good mood.

Also, 99.8 percent of all the books I read cannot even hope to approach “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty” because, well, all of these books are nowhere near perfection, as this book is It’s a masterful, nearly perfect murder mystery.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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“I Am Titanium” by John Patrick Kennedy is a super hero novel that reflects our violent movie/video game” culture

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a book about two ordinary young people who suddenly become extraordinary beings.

In the case of the young man, he’s not so typical because, for starters, he’s 17 but already on his death bed. Pax is dying from a horrific disease called scleroderma – it involves the tightening of the skin and connective tissue. It’s an agonizing way to die.

His only friend, Scarlett, has problems not quite as urgent: She’s a drab, gawky 17-year-old whose lack of feminine grace, good looks and charm means she’s not exactly the most popular girl in school. She’s an outcast and bullied.

But the fortunes of both Pax and Scarlett are about the change in a most amazing way: A couple of meddling “super beings” from the astral world are going to transform them into powerful, indestructible entities with god-like powers – Pax’s diseased body will be replaced with solid titanium and Scarlett will be made of “negative energy” and fire.

If it sounds like an intriguing premise for a thrilling fantasy/science fiction novel, well, it is. It’s made more interesting because there is a decent plot here – Pax and Scarlett are immediately caught up in a game of inter-dimensional politics which will determine nothing less than the survival of the entire human race.

Author JOHN PATRICK KENNEDY writes extremely well; his prose is natural and fluid. He has a lucid, no-nonsense style. He definitely has a sense of pacing and rhythm, balancing scenes of intense, violent action with periods of serene and calm.

And yet, acknowledging all of the above, I AM TITANIUM left me feeling bland and uninspired, even depressed. I’ll be brutally honest: I felt relieved to get to the last page – much in the same way that people are glad when one of Michael Bay’s over-long Transformer movies finally rolls credits.

It’s that frustrating feeling to be inexplicably bored while embroiled in long scenes of spectacular, intense action and eye-popping special effects – while at the same time knowing that all this eye candy is about as nutritious as real candy – empty calories that taste good, but ultimately leave you starved.

The action scenes in this book go on way too long, especially the epic battle between Pax and “the monster” in the latter third of the book. It grinds away page after page and quickly wears tedious – and then after all that, the “monster” and Pax end up working for the same cause anyway!

There are other factors that also seriously erode our reading experience. For example, before obtaining super powers, Scarlett was a typical angst-ridden teen, at odds with her parents, a loser at love (actually, a total nonstarter) and socially alienated. After she gets super powers, she becomes something even worse. Still angst ridden, alienated and troubled in love – even though all on a different level and for different reasons now.

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John Patrick Kennedy

Despite the fact that he’s dying, Pax starts out as a hopeful, even positive young man with a meaningful goal – the study of the astral realms — but after he obtains super powers, he becomes a typical sullen teen with an endless stream of things to aggravate him and complain about.

A long bout of losing his virginity (having sex seven times in one session) only results in complicated “girlfriend” problems.

His dialogue devolves into a series of grunted monosyllabic phrases liberally seasoned with the “F word.”

His own inept actions (such as accidentally killing a street protestor) infuses him with existential angst.

His rocky relationship with his mother deteriorates to an even lower order.

Speaking of mom, Pax’s mother, Dr. Julia Black, is revealed to have a level of humanity barely above that of the infamous Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele – and she becomes the focal point of an almost inexplicable series of scenes wherein she interacts with some AI robots – which is at best, tangential to the entire narrative and, at worst, borders on not making much sense.

However, for me, what is truly dejecting and saddening about this book is that the mass of humanity is treated as so much insignificant cannon fodder – uncounted thousands of people are killed, maimed, burned, crushed, eaten, hacked up, stabbed, flung through the air, smashed against walls, mashed into pulpy lumps of flesh – it’s all part of the collateral damage resulting from the wacky adventures of two teen super heroes fighting to save humanity.

I found myself wishing that a book that centers on an epic battle to save humanity would display an overall greater sense or empathy for that humanity.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Author Steve Anderson enthralls with poignant stories of ordinary people in small-town Ohio

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

There exists in America a special place where you’ll find a transition zone between two distinct cultures.

It’s a mixture of the staid, straightforward practically of Midwesterners with the wild, mysterious blend of the Deep South as shaped by the edge of the Appalachian wilderness. That location is southeast Ohio.

If a writer could capture the flavor of that unique mixture of Americana by telling the stories of ordinary people with a collection of short stories – anyone reading it would gain a certain deeper understanding of the American experience.

It would also be incredibly entertaining!

I’m delighted to report that Ohio author and film-maker STEVE ANDERSON has accomplished this subtle task with this collection of short stories titled: 1979.

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Steve Anderson

On the outside these tales would seem to be a series of coming of age “booze and boobs” vignettes featuring hormone-driven pre-adolescents and teenagers who are just waking up into a world where temptations abound – cheap wine, beer, sexy young girls, (and a few lusty older women), fast junky cars, cheap dope and the delicious discovery of that first kiss coupled with a daring grope of breast.

However, by design or accident, these stories deliver more than just surface-level entertainment. Let’s face it; each offering here is a little work of art. The writing often transcends the quality of being merely entertaining yarns to delivering that sense of:

“There is something real here that strikes a chord. I’m not sure what it is, but I can feel it.”

I can’t decide if Steve Anderson is one of those natural writer who is able to make stories like these just flow off his fingertips, or if he is one of those dogged writers, rewriters and revisers – but who cares? He writes extremely well.

Reader will quickly forget that some guy is trying to enthrall them with words because we’re swept away by each of these stories right from the first sentences, and before you know it, the story is done. Then you realize you have just forgotten that you were sitting in an uncomfortable chair squinting at words on a page because you were magically transported 35 years into the past to a small town in Ohio– it’s as if you lived a few visceral hours through the eyes and feelings of the characters.

I like writers who understand that if you just tell a story, everything else will take care of itself – and also comprehend the importance of character. Anderson’s characters pop off the page, alive, fresh and vivid, almost certainly because he based his creations on real people he knew while growing up in the 1970s.

I don’t want you to think what you’re going to get here is a lot of bland “Happy Days” nostalgia ala an idealized version of what life might have been like in 70s-era small town America. Anderson shows that, like the mean streets of Detroit, the tough hoods of New York or the gang infested barrios of Los Angeles – small towns can incubate their own festering brand of mean street cruelty.

With the cool gaze of an unflinching observer, Anderson regales us with sweat-inducing scenes, such as a man getting brutally whip-beaten with a metal car antenna; a tornado breaking the back of cow; wild-eyed southern boys pulling off the pants of a young boy in an alley and then meting out a tooth-knocking thrashing before they nearly cut off his testicles with a dirty pocket knife.

Yes, you’ll find sweetness and sentiment here, good times and laughs, but there’s also loneliness and boredom, betrayal and alienation, lust and violence – all part of an unvarnished look at the basic reality of life — delivered to your doorstep courtesy the pen of one … savvy … wordsmith!




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Jack Pine: A murder mystery set in Minnesota that few real Minnesotans would recognize

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is not so much a book using Minnesota as a backdrop, but a novel that creates a kind mythological Minnesota that does not exist in reality – unfortunately, the mythical Minnesota elements are largely gleaned from Hollywood movie clichés and bland, surface-level stereotypes.

Yes, this is fiction so anything goes and I believe in granting any writer all the poetic license they want to make up a story in an imaginary world – but for me, this novel comes off as a clumsy mish-mash of standard fictional props, well-worn plot gimmicks and jarring inconsistencies.

The setting is present-day Minnesota where people carry smartphones, yet there are beads-and-sandals wearing hippies that seem to have time-traveled from 1960s California to reappear as “tree huggers” in the Boundary Waters; there’s a Minnesota cop who is essentially a Clint Eastwood cowboy from a 1970s spaghetti western; there are Native Americans who are still using bows and arrows and painting their faces (that’s right) and journalists, doctors, loggers and country attorneys who never seem to have progressed out of the 1940s.

It’s also breathtaking how much the author gets wrong about Minnesota – I kept asking myself throughout this book: “Where was this guy’s editor?”

For example, take this sentence:

“The ice melted and filled the thousand lakes of Minnesota and then the trees grew on top of the rock.”

Say what? A thousand lakes? Or course, Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It’s on our license plates. Technically, Minnesota has 11,842 lakes if you want to Google it.

Or this sentence:

“Diane had the frankness that comes from watching a father die of black lung disease and going to work full time when she was just sixteen.”

There is no black lung disease found in Minnesota miners. We have taconite mines and black lung disease is not associated with taconite mining, but rather, coal mining. Black lung disease is something you find in West Virginia or Kentucky – true, Minnesota miners have higher incidence of lung disease, but this is associated with asbestos and/or silica dust in mines. This produces a condition called mesothelioma, a disease of the outer lining of the lungs. To invoke black lung disease in a Minnesota story is simply culturally and scientifically ridiculous.

Or this sentence:

“Thought maybe it was the girl who was in the shed, but she didn’t sound like she was from the lower forty-eight.”

Again I have to ask in utter perplexity: Say what? I mean: “The lower forty-eight”?

What on earth is he talking about? Again and again, the characters use the term “lower forty-eight” to refer to anyone from outside of Minnesota – except that Minnesota IS ONE OF THE LOWER FORTY-EIGHT!

No one that I know of here my home state of Minnesota refers to outsiders as being from the lower forty-eight, and why should we? We are among the lower forty-eight, we all know we are among the lower forty-eight, and so why refer to someone from, say, Illinois, as being from the lower forty-eight?

It’s just inexplicable! Again, where was this guy’s editor?

Speaking of bad editing, the books is loaded with clumsy sentences, downright grammatically incorrect constructions and confusing elements of time. As an example of a bad sentence, try this one:

“Tom Jorde stabbed a computer resembling a large egg in a green T-shirt of white lettering—SAVE THE SPOTTED OWL FROM EXTINCTION.”

Did the author really mean to suggest that an egg-shaped computer was wearing a t-shirt?

Throughout reading this novel, I found myself literally gasping and searching with frustration for the best superlatives to describe what I was reading: absurd, ridiculous, painfully wrong … even though this is merely fiction. But even when writing fiction, there should be some adherence to plausible reality unless you’re writing out-and-out fantasy, not a mainstream novel.

Much of my exasperation is with the way the author tries to handle “Minnesota Speak,” – his effort is clumsy and just beyond absurd (there’s that word again.) I mean, whether the character is a doctor from Minneapolis, a lawyer, a redneck logger, a Native American or resort owner – they all talk like 100% Norsky-hillbilly hicks who just fell off the boat from Norway, smelling of pickled herring and lutefisk.

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William Hazelgrove

Oh ya, you betcha, everyone talks like this here, you know … ya, oh ya, fer sure, that’s right there then what do yer think of that there here?

Even Minnesota’s Native Americans are portrayed to speak this way – and if you grew up with and have known Minnesota Natives for your entire life like I have – then you would understand how just exasperatingly ludicrous it is to make a Minnesota Indian sound like Sven Swenson from the old country, even in a work of fiction.

Take it from me. I was born in Roseau, a small hockey-power town where the snowmobile was invented, and where the Polaris factory is still the primary employer. I also have worked as a newspaper reporter and Minnesota state government official – I have lived in a remote corner of Minnesota all my life — but I have traveled all 87 counties of our state interviewing thousands of Minnesotans while writing about Main Street Minnesota over the past 30 years.

So you can believe it when I say the only place in Minnesota where people speak like Ole and Lena is in Hollywood movies – such as Fargo — and the occasional sketch on Minnesota icon Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show.

It’s not that I am insulted by the way Mr. Hazelgrove or any fictional media like to play up the mythical Norsky-Hillbilly Minnesota speak – far from it – I think it’s fun. I love it. I was delighted by the movie Fargo (one scene was filmed practically right in my back yard) – I loved police chief Marge Gunderson and auto dealer Jerry Lundegaard – and the way Frances McDormand and William H. Macy mastered and really nailed the faux-Minnesota accent – except this movie was CLEARLY PLAYING IT FOR LAUGHS.

In JACK PINE, a serious murder mystery, we are expected to believe that regular, everyday Minnesotans from all professions and all walks of life, young and old, all talk like Ole Olson – he was a guy from my home town of Greenbush. Ole owned a Swedish potato sausage business in the 40s, 50s and 60s, died at the age of 97, born in 1905 – so yes, sure, he had that distinctive Scandinavian sing-song gate to his speech – but his generation are largely gone from our state and culture now.

To be clear: My low rating of this novel goes well beyond my problems with the portrayal of the language – the writing is frequently muddy and unclear, the time sequencing of key events is confusing to say the least, the characters are cookie-cutter cliché props borrowed from Hollywood movies, the metaphors are strained, the descriptions of the Minnesota wilderness misfire … and on and on.

All this and I’m a big WILLIAM HAZELGROVE fan – this is the fourth of his novels I have read, and I have reviewed all here and given all my top rating. Hazelgrove is a fiercely talented novelist who is one our finest modern American novelists working today – but nobody is perfect – and Jack Pine is a certified bust.

As penance for penning this disaster, I hereby sentence William Hazelgrove to read five JON HASSLER novels, two Sinclair Lewis novels, say three Hail Marys, strive to amend his life, and go in peace.

IMPORTANT FINAL NOTE:

Despite filling every page with characters aping the Hollywood faux-Minnesota Speak, the author fails to use even once the most genuine, ingrained and ubiquitous Minnesota idiom of them all, the one word that all Minnesotans actually and truly do use: UFF DA!

That’s right – not once! Minnesota! Home of the uff da taco! (A taco made with lefse for a wrap).

Not one use of uff da! within a 300-page novel set in the culture of Minnesota.

That is absolutely ridiculous.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Just crowdsource it all with Mindsharing: Lior Zoref’s vision for a future of mankind as a hive species

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The author of this book is rightfully exuberant about the wonders of the crowdsourcing phenomenon, and his new spin on it, for which he has coined a fresh term: MINDSHARING.

I fully acknowledge the many positive aspects of the revolution he is talking about – the incredible power of the crowdsourcing phenomenon and the new and innovative ways all of us can leverage social media platforms to advance our lives.

For the most part, it’s a terrific book, I recommend you buy it. But what concerns me about the book is author LIOR ZOREF‘s failure to fully acknowledge the dark side of crowdsourcing and what he calls Mindsharing — and have no doubt, there is a dark side.

In any revolution, there are always winners and losers. Let’s just acknowledge that.

For example, take such long-time professionals as journalists, freelance writer, photographers and graphic artists. One of my close associates, who is a talented graphic artist, described the situation this way:

“Imagine if someone needed a plumber. In the “old days,” he would have gone to the Yellow Pages, hired a professional, contracted for the work and the plumber would have been paid for the services he or she rendered.

“But now imagine if a person could instead put out a call to get 20 plumbers to come to his house, fix his leaky pipes, and then only one of them got paid. The rest had to work for free. And the one plumber who did get paid earned 90% less than he previously did.

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Lior Zoref

“That’s crowdsourcing – good for the guy who needed the plumber, but bad for all plumbers.”

My friend’s plumber analogy is basically what has happened to tens of thousands of graphic artists, he said.

Today, if someone needs a new logo, there is little need to hire or pay a professional graphic artist to do the work. All you have to do is go to a crowdsourcing site, select from among thousands of logos that have been professionally designed and loaded onto a website.

Because each artists’ logo will be one of thousands, the most he or she can get for his work is many $1 to $10 – but it’s much more likely they will almost never sell a piece of commercial art. The crowd is just too massive. There’s too much competition – and everyone is working for free. Selling something you designed is more akin to playing the lottery.

In fact, this is the way Mr. Zoref arrived at the final the cover design for this book. To his credit, he at least acknowledges the downside. He writes:

“There are some who say that Web sites such as 99designs make designers work without getting paid (unless their design is chosen), while others see it as a disruptive force offering cheap alternative to expensive designers. Without a doubt, it gives designers a chance to develop their portfolio and bid on jobs they might never had access to without the platform.”

But this is a bland statement. It fails to acknowledge that every time a designer puts her work out there for free, she is undercutting herself and everyone in her profession. The fact is, untold thousands of designers are flooding dozens and dozens of online sites like 99designs with unlimited “free stuff” – so why should anyone hire and pay a graphic designer ever again?

There are many other similar examples of the same phenomenon happening across an array of other professions – but I’ll leave off here because I don’t want to drone on for pages — but I wish Mr. Zoref would have paid more attention to the tens of thousands of people who have found lifelong careers become suddenly irrelevant (unless they are willing to work for free as slaves).

There are other aspects of Mindsharing and crowdsourcing that also bring out my “Inner Contrarian” and yes, I’ll admit, my “Latent Luddite.”

I mean, how eagerly do we really want to go down this road? Do we want to start outsourcing every aspect of our lives, minds and personalities – even our personal, intimate love lives?

Mr. Zoref seems to think so – have a problem finding love or with dating? Easy! Mindshare it! If you’re socially inept, don’t worry. Zoref says the hive mind behind your smartphone or tablet will tell you what to do, how to act and how to be. The “hive mind” is ever ready to choose for you who you will date, and even how to speak and act on that date.

You may be a social cripple — but no problem — the ubiquitous Mindsharing hive will carry you along with the rest of the ants.

I’m only getting started here – but it’s far past time to pull the plug. I’ll just leave you with some homework to do. Here’s your assignment:

Go to Google and look up a mysterious figure by the name of Jar’Edo Wens.

When you find out who Jar’Edo Wens, ask yourself: Do we really want to crowdsource encyclopedias, or as Mr. Zoref suggest — crowdsource “everything?”




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Free horror short story “Rot” by author Michelle Barclay should frazzle the brain of even the hardened horror reader

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

In The Exorcist there is a scene where Father Merrin and Father Karras are preparing for battle with a demon-possessed little girl, and the elderly Father Merrin tells his young assistant:

“The demon’s attack will be psychological – and powerful.”

Those two words are perfect to describe ROT, an enormously disturbing and frightening short story penned by writer MICHELLE BARCLAY. Psychological, powerful – and oh so demonically dark.

It’s a marvelous piece of fiction. You might think there’s little original today about demon-possession stories within the horror genre, but in the hands of a fiercely talented writer such as Barclay, demon lore is made fresh again … er, I mean rotten … in that Edgar Allan Poe sort of way a disturbing tale should be rotten.

What’s terrific about this piece is that the author does not rely on gratuitous blood and gore, the downfall of so many horror-scribe wannabes. Barclay spends the first three-quarters of the story establishing a punishing sense of psychological terror – and when you get sufficiently unnerved and off balance – she hits you with some spurting-of-the-blood and tearing-of-the-flesh.

Best of all, there’s a depth of intelligence crafted into this story – it makes insightful sociological observations about why people believe what they do, how inept we all are in understanding our own views of subject like God, religion, believe and disbelief. This is not boring, it’s gripping.

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Michelle Barclay

Just as there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from a fear which is actually right there – inside yourself – anyway one who dares to read Rot will be unsettled (to say the least) while being darkly entertained.

Be warned: this is not for the faint of heart, or those who like their reality straight. Barclay is not interested in making you feel good about yourself or society; she weaves a fabric spun from a poisonous black web of words – if you decide to read this at bedtime, I’m betting you’ll choose to sleep with your lights on.

On second thought – don’t read this story at night – or while you’re alone.

Don’t cyber-walk, cyber-run to get your free copy of ROT right now, click here: ROT




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Retro Review: Jack Vance and the Demon Princes: “The Killing Machine”

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Think of all the great names of science fiction from the previous century – Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Silverberg, Dick, Pohl, Cordwainer Smith, Sheckley, Van Vogt, de Camp, Harrison (insert your own) …

Well, there was one man who was a greater writer than all of the above.

It was Jack Vance.

I won’t belabor the point here anymore – if you read enough of his books, I’m certain you’ll come to agree with me. This book, The Killing Machine, one of the five-part “Demon Prices” series, is one Vance’s best.

Briefly, the scenario is this:

On a faraway planet at some time in the far-flung future, a young man by the name of Kirth Gersen witnesses to the horrible spectacle of his family being murdered in a raid on his village. The killers are the Demon Princes. They’re not demons, per se, but intergalactic mobsters/crime bosses who wreak havoc across the galaxy.

They do whatever they like: raid, steal, plummet, kill, rape and massacre. They’re extremely powerful, highly secretive and their desire for wealth and power cannot be quenched.

Gersen grows to manhood and dedicates his life to tracking down the Demon Prices. His goal is to assassinate them one at a time, seeking justice and to avenge his slaughtered family.

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Jack Vance, 1916-2013

With great self discipline and constant training, Gersen develops into a powerful man. He may be the only man in the entire galaxy who is even more lethal and dangerous than the Demon Princes themselves.

Gersen makes James Bond look like a rank amateur – his expertise with manual fighting techniques, personal weaponry and private eye investigative skills is unequaled – although he does have flaws; just a chink or two in his armor to make things interesting. He’s a gloomy man, fiercely intelligent and driven — a monomaniac.

His target in this book is the mysterious Kokor Hekkus, one of the Demon Prices. The name Kokor Hekkus literally means “The Killing Machine” in the language of the locals of the planet Thamber, where Hekkus is believed to live – although no one is certain.

In fact, many believe that the planet Thamber may not exist at all. Is it a mythical world? — A realm of castles, magic and dragons? Or perhaps there really is a Thamber, somehow lost or forgotten from the star charts of the known galaxy.

The Killing Machine is a book of almost unimaginable science fiction fun.

Expertly plotted, tightly written, it is inventive to a wonderful degree. Vance has an ability like no other writer to create a tone that is serious, but at the same time, impregnated with a pervasive, understated sense of humor. Vance’s humor is dry, wry and deeply ironic.

There is one scene in the book that is my favorite perhaps in all of science fiction, and I must mention it here:

It’s a situation in which the characters build a gigantic fighting vehicle that looks like a giant centipede. This “rolling fortress of death” travels on rows of flexible magnetic-metallic whip-like legs. It shoots deadly bolts of searing laser rays and bristles with an array of other weapon options – and the drivers operate it by sitting comfortably inside on plush captain’s chairs, much as if they were tooling around in a luxury RV.

It’s just great! You’ll know it when you read it!

Although each of the five Demon Princes novels are Class A, 5-star reads, The Killing Machine has always been my favorite of the series. It’s the second of the bunch, and you probably don’t need to read the first to jump right into the narrative.

This is a book that is magical and fantastical, while also staying true to those principles of hard science fiction, employing plausible inventions of futuristic technology, gadgetry and science.

In my almost 50 years of reading thousands of science fiction novels and short stories – The Killing Machine is among my Top 5 of all time. It’s just that good.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

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Cool indie writer website of the week: Science fiction writer Chris Reher and the Targon Tales

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KEN KORCZAK;

The smartest, hardest-working indie writers bolster their book-selling efforts with a kick-ass website, and this week we select the site of Canadian science fiction writer CHRIS REHER.

It’s a clean and attractive design which displays the covers of Reher’s books. The book covers themselves do a lot of the heavy lifting in making the overall site look good because they’re professionally done, exciting and attractive. Terrific cover art.

Navigation around the webpage is easy. The personality of the site evinces a feeling of: “Hey, science fiction is fun and exciting” while doing the basic legwork of promoting and marketing the author’s selection of titles.

We also notice that Reher is offering the first book in her series for free, and you can get it here: SKY HUNTER FREE.

Note: I read and reviewed Sky Hunter and liked it quite a bit. See my review HERE.

You can visit Chris Reher’s site here: GO TO WEBSITE

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @KenKorczak and please consider giving a “Like” to REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING on Facebook!

Author Allen Tiffany master-crafts an intense Vietnam War novel

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a short, intense and gripping novel that holds the reader in a state of tension almost from first page to last, and that tension is released by a masterfully-handled description of a bloody firefight in the steaming jungles of Vietnam.

The book succeeds because the author captures the reality of war by showing us what it truly is — a frightening combination of intense boredom and endless fatigue punctuated by horrific moments of frenetic combat in which men are shot, stabbed, wounded, bleed and die.

It tells the story of a U.S. Army infantry corporal leading his men on patrols in the steamy jungles of Vietnam in an area near the Cambodian border. The area is infested with the enemy; the U.S. soldiers, some barely more than boys out of high school, are playing a constant game of kill or be killed. They are in a frightening foreign, alien environment that are the nightmarish jungles of South East Asia.

All the gloves are off – this is a bitter fight where the only goal is to see which side can kill or maim as many as possible on the other side.

It’s takes a remarkable amount of writing skill to capture the brutal reality that was the desperate fight in Vietnam. Author ALLEN TIFFANY does everything a writer can do right to place his readers inside the story — to tell a story — to create characters, set a scene, build a plot and impart a theme.

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Allen Tiffany

The writing is tight, without a wasted word. Each sentence is no-nonsense, clean and lean. What’s truly amazing is that the author manages to introduce us to five characters and brings each one of them to life as believable figures we quickly get to know – and thus we care about them and feel empathy for their dire situation.

Great writing is also about illuminating small details – the nitty-gritty aspects of just getting by – such a filling a canteen from a muddy stream and dousing it with iodine tablets — a soldier curled up in his poncho sleeping in the mud – or showing us how a knife blade can be too wide to penetrate the brain if you stab a man in the eye.

Best of all, the author understands that if you tell a story, and tell it well, all the rest takes care of itself. That is, you don’t have to get on a soapbox to rant and rave about whether you think the Vietnam War was right or wrong.

There’s no lecturing or bland moralizing. Yes, there’s a sense of guilt, regret, confusion and horror – of doing one’s duty for one’s country — but all of this falls out naturally by illustrating a situation thrust upon innocent American young men by the ever-so-wise “Powers That Be.”

YOUTH IN ASIA  is more than just a short, punchy war novel – it’s great literature.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

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Free e-book of the week: Daimones by Massimo Marino

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KEN KORCZAK:

This week’s free ebook of the week is the first of an ambitious triology of novels by physicist and computer scientist MASSIMO MARINO.

Dr. Marino’s impressive résumé includes the likes of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and Apple Computer, and much more.

His books tell of a bleak dystopian future world in which most of the human race has been “exterminated.”

A brief description goes this way:

Could Dan Amenta be the last man alive on the planet? Death has swept away the lives of billions of people, but Dan and his family were spared. By whom, and why?

Surviving, to give meaning to their lives, and looking for other survivors lead Dan to discover the truth about the extermination of the human race.

The encounter with Laura, a young and sexy girl of Italian origin, raises ethical and moral questions that had never touched the Amentas family before.

Other survivors force Dan to confront his past to find answers to the many questions.

You can get your free copy of Volume One of the DAIMONES TRIOLOGY by clicking here: Daimones: Daimones Trilogy

And now consider clicking here to help a butterfly: POLLINATORS

Dava Sobel delivers intriguing insights into the life of Copernicus, but one aspect of the book falters

downloadReview by: KEN KORCZAK

If would be fair to say that Nicolaus Copernicus was the Albert Einstein of his time. In fact, what Copernicus was asking the world to accept was even more radical than what Einstein proposed with his theory of relativity.

Shortly after Einstein’s relativity went public, the New York Times pounced. An editorial said Einstein’s theory was: “Certainly a fiction.” But he got off easy compared to Copernicus.

More than 500 years ago when the intellectual world got wind of Copernicus’s heliocentric model featuring an earth that was not only spinning, but hurling through space — it simply defied common sense!

Arguments like these were made: “Would not birds get lost after they flew off their nests? If the earth spun away from under them while they were in the air, how would they find their way back?”

It seemed the most fundamental notion of common observation: The earth was solid underfoot, did not appear to be moving, no motion could be felt or observed – a spinning, orbiting earth? Ridiculous!

And what about the sacred scripture of the Bible!

This is what makes the Copernican Revolution still so incredibly breathtaking to this day. It was a monumental leap – a major paradigm shattering event – against seemingly impossible odds.

Imagine the man, the fabulous, disciplined mind, that could make such a thing happen! It was Copernicus!

For me, the stunning nature of what Copernicus achieved — the feeling of it — is not captured or conveyed in this book. DAVA SOBEL has given us a lot of interesting facts, but failed to impart a sense of wonder.

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Dava Sobel

I must also say: I agree with other critics who have taken Sobel harshly to task for including her three act play to fill the middle third of this book – a disastrous decision both on her part, and that of her editors. The latter should have talked her out of it. The play is a drag. I think it fails to capture the spirit of the man, and the texture of the times.

That’s why this book cannot earn a top rating from me.

Even so, this is otherwise a fascinating book from which I learned things about Copernicus that I did not know before – and I have admired Copernicus and read about him since I became an obsessive amateur astronomer almost 50 years ago.

I became a die-hard fan of DAVA SOBEL after I read her GALILEO’S DAUGHTER one of the best books I have read in 10 years. When I saw Sobel had turned her brilliant historian’s eye on the mighty Copernicus, I couldn’t wait to buy a copy and read.

The first third and the last third are indeed absorbing and fascinating. I give Sobel enormous credit for crafting an often intimate narrative of the life of Copernicus, considering what must be an agonizing lack of available historical documentation. So much of what we might know about Copernicus has been lost – especially the biography written by Copernicus’s only student, the brilliant but tragic Georg Joachim Rheticus.

I live for the day – if it might ever happen – that some discovery is made of Rheticus’s biography of his master in some ancient back room, museum or library.

But Sobel could have done so much more with what was one of the most amazing, tumultuous times in history. Consider that Copernicus was about 19 or 20 years old when Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, and the shock waves this sent across Europe. It’s not mentioned in this book. It was also Copernican science that drove the final stake into the heart of feudalism – sure, feudalism was all but dead by 1500, but the Copernican universe made sure it would stay dead. (Many scholars have also offered that it was The Copernican system that provided the fuel to end feudalism of Japan! No mention of that either).

Then there’s the overarching societal effects of calendar reform, the death blow it delivered to the Dark Ages in general, the amazing confluence of the Protestant Revolution — all of this gets short shrift – in favor of pages padded with a bland theatrical play that just had to discuss the homosexual predilections of Rheticus and Copernicus’s relationship with his concubine.

Again, the first third and last third of this book are a tantalizing and absorbing peek into the life of one of the most consequential men ever to live – and makes this book worth the price. I recommend you buy it.

But, as it stands, A MORE PERFECT HEAVEN represents a missed opportunity to provide the reader with a more comprehensive look at a time when the entire spiritual and psychological universe of humankind changed in a fundamental way – and what it still means to all of us today.




Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Crystal Horizon by Doug J. Cooper free science fiction ebook of the week, first of a series

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KEN KORCZAK

Your free science fiction ebook of the week is a short prequel to what the author calls the Crystal SeriesCrystal Horizon is an adventure that promises loads of actions which involves aliens, AI, space battles, sizzling romance, spies — and more!

This Crystal Horizon prequel is just 43 pages, which should be enough to whet your appetite for the two books to follow — Crystal Deception and Crystal Conquest.

To get your free copy of Crystal Horizon, go to the author’s web site here: CRYSTAL SERIES.

The author is Doug J. Cooper and you can learn more about him here: LEARN ABOUT DOUG

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And now … the ghost of Ernest Hemingway speaks (really): CHANNELING HEMINGWAY

Maximus Freeman delves into his own psyche seeking the answers to spiritual growth

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This book has an intriguing title, and it is aptly chosen because the author is attempting to dig into his own psyche, striving to uncover the greater meaning of what makes himself tick. He is on a courageous mission to find spiritual growth, but also to relieve the fundamental suffering that all human beings feel – what the Buddha called “the dukkha.”

The dukkha is the agony of the self. It’s that all-pervasive, undefinable pain and misery we feel that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. It can be depression, it can be anxiety, it can be alienation, it can be a nagging sense of dissatisfaction, it can be loneliness, it can be persistent anger and contempt for others.

Many people today attack this suffering by reading the reams of self-help books on the market today. There’s never a shortage. Suffering is a universal phenomenon and wherever you find a universal problem, you’ll find hundreds of people offering a solution.

Like many people, the author has spent years in the New Age candy store, devouring the endless tomes of self-help gurus from all walks of life. He acknowledges the drawback of this approach. In the Prelude, he writes:

“Many books are informative and helpful, but usually within a week or two, I have forgotten most of what I have read and have resorted back to my old comfortable ways of being.”

His goal is to make this book different – more practical, effective, useful and leaving the reader with genuine tools that will get the job done – the relief of suffering and the discovery of greater spiritual meaning.

Does he succeed? Yes, in part, I think he does. His approach is at times brutally honest and sincere. His effort to penetrate to the fundamental elements of what makes us unhappy – and provide solid solutions — is downright heroic. MAXIMUS FREEMAN is clearly an author who deeply cares about his readers. He honestly wants to help you by showing how he tried to help himself.

He gets the job done partially with a lot of heavy leveraging of other self-help luminaries who are giants of the field – he quotes liberally from Gary Zukav and Dr. David R. Hawkins, for example. But he also dabbles in a bit of light channeling, connecting with a source he calls “The Universe,” from which we get insights in a question and answer format.

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Maximus Freeman

Mr. Freeman also serves up some of his own advice, some of which comes off as perhaps a tad “corporate speak” in flavor, as when he offers his “Mechanisms of Transformation” which he describes as a “six-step spiritual maturation process.”

I don’t give this book my tip top rating only because I set the bar very high in this genre. As we all know, entire forests have been cleared to accommodate the truck loads of self-help books published year after year, decade after decades.

Consciousness Archaeology, although a fine book, is not destined to become a classic of the field. The structure of the book is a tad disjointed and uneven. I also found more than a few points I might quibble with, which I won’t air here – but when a book is just a 100 pages, it should have that power-packed “this is a home run” feeling or “this is a small gem” aura, which it just doesn’t have for me.

For example, “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” by Thaddeus Golas is about 80 pages, and after reading it you think: “All my problems are solved! Everything is so crystal clear now! I’ll never have to read another book again!” Other classics come close this feeling, such as “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen or “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell Conwell – and these latter three masterpieces are available for free across the Internet.

Let me just say, however, that I would recommend anyone buy and read Consciousness Archaeology. The way it work for people who are seeking answers through reading a lot of books is this: You never know when you’ll find that one book that really clicks for you; something that just happens to resonate with you in just the right way at the right time.

Consciousness Archaeology may be the book you need right now that has that certain something you need to hear at this moment in your life – you never know.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Free Kindle Book of the Week

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Your free Kindle Book of Week is THE ENEMY OF AN ENEMY by VINCENT TRIGILI. It’s science fiction/fantasy and Book 1 of a series the author calls “Lost Tales of Power.”

The premise of the book is described this way on Amazon:

Vydor is riding a wave of success, but now his ship, the Dragon Claw, is being sent to investigate a mysterious event deep within the Empire’s space. A secret research colony has fallen silent and the forces sent to investigate were never heard from again.

A new enemy has come to the Empire bringing with it dark powers that were abandoned long before the Empire was born. Powers that were thought to be legends and myths.

It’s up to Vydor to keep this force at bay and protect the Empire, but it may come at the cost of his faith and shake the foundations of the Empire itself.

Get your free Kindle download of this book here: ENEMY

For more book news and other news, see: LOTS OF STUFF

A gruesome look at reality: Gang rape in India

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The news cycle today is brutal: Shocking reports of monstrous beheadings, people burned alive in cages, entire African villages murdered by militarized thugs.

Well, prepare to have a tad more of your hope for humanity wrung out (if you have any left). This compelling Kindle Single, 13 MEN, written by SONIA FALEIRO, is a riveting, unflinching piece of long-form journalism looking at the dark and hope-sapping phenomena of gang rape in India.

Faleiro takes apart the complex case of a charming, hardworking, but perhaps headstrong young woman recently returned to live in her remote village in West Bengal, India. She dared to flout centuries old local tribal customs – but paid for it with an even greater corruption of those same traditional moral codes.

The topic is timely, to be sure, noting the recent controversial decision by the government of India to ban a BBC documentary about the gang rape of a New Delhi woman. Debate about this censorship is raging across the Internet and world media.

Gang rapes by roving packs of men has long been a huge problem in India, but the country seems determined to bring this deeply taboo subject out of the darkness into the light of greater public consciousness – a painful process as India’s multifaceted, complex and ancient culture lurches into modern times.

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Author Sonia Faleiro

Faleiro’s 13 Men should serve as a significant contribution to the discussion. With the withering gaze of a journalist determined to get all the facts and capture the complexity of a single case, the author demonstrates how enormously difficult and vexing finding truth and justice can be.

What’s involved is not just a clash of cultures, but economic injustice, greedy capitalists, corrupt and/or inept public officials, competing interpretations of laws and customs, illiteracy, alcohol abuse and just the plain-old lack of moral character by certain drifting, good-for-nothing men – and perhaps the women who enable them.

Navigating all this territory and churning it back out into a piece of writing that is clear and concise is no easy task, and I give Fareiro enormous credit for bringing clarity to an almost impossibly muddy issue.

If you have the stomach to confront more of the tragedy, cruelty and heartache of our troubled world, pick up a copy of 13 Men – it’s a marvelous piece of journalism on a timely subject that brings much-needed light to a deeply dark issue.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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A small heartfelt gem that tells of life-after-death communication

Peters

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This small book brought a tear to my eye, and also gave me goose bumps more than once.

It’s an honest, sincere accounting of a man’s experience of not just dealing with the death of his parents, but his real-life experience of establishing afterdeath communication with them..

Even better, it offers tantalizing evidence that when the physical body dies, the person does not. Call it what you want – the soul, spirit, energy body, higher self, mind – there is a huge body of scientific (yes, scientific) evidence that physical death is not the end.

Not only is there life after death, but we can communicate with the loved ones we have lost. They’re still there for us, they can communicate with us, and we can talk back to them. You just have to be willing to open your mind and reshape your belief system to accept that it is possible.

The incidents of afterdeath communication author Alexander Peters demonstrates in these pages proves to me that his story is authentic. I say this based on dozens of other books I have read by some of the world’s most elite doctors and scientists who have written about the specific nature of afterdeath communications.

These include: Dr. Gary Schwartz, Dr. Michael Newton, Dr. Pim van Lommel, Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr, Raymond Moody, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Dr. Brian Weiss, Julia Assante Ph.D., Dr. Larry Dossey and that’s just to name a few.

What all of these luminaries agree upon is that afterdeath messages from our loved ones often take the form of not just direct thoughts and actual words that are heard – but seemingly coincidental symbolisms which cannot be mistaken for anything else but a message from the departed.

As this book demonstrates, these symbolic communications can be things like a special song with lyrics containing just the message you need to hear – and that song unexpectedly begins playing on your radio just as you are thinking about your loved one.

Peters tells of amazing confluences involving his cell phone and Blackberry, the appearance of a special bird, the surprise appearance of gifts – and much more.

He packs a lot into this short book. This is obviously not a slick book written by a professional writer, but rather is an honest, readable account penned by an ordinary middle-class guy from a small town in England.

It’s a significant contribution to the ever-growing body of literature by scientists and ordinary folks alike who have come to realize — beyond a reasonable doubt — that life goes on after death. The fact is, our loved ones never leave our sides. Even after death, they’re still right there for us, and close by.

To find this book online, go here: MY MUMMY AND DADDY

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

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Motorcycle Enlightenment by Charles Sides is breezy on the outside and deep on the inside

51H42H68W5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Review by: KEN KORCZAK

I think it’s fair to say that the title of this novel, MOTORCYCLE ENLIGHTENMENT, will immediately invoke for many readers that great icon of American literature, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, by Minnesota native and genius Robert Pirsig.

Motorcycle Enlightenment is more light-hearted fare, though I hasten to add, this in no way detracts from what is a fine, often even elegant novel penned by CHARLES SIDES.

This book tilts more toward Richard Bach’s ILLUSIONS in terms of reading challenge as compared to Pirsig’s epic work of brilliance. And yet, there is a central element within Sides’ book that has a tantalizing confluence with Pirsig’s book. It’s this:

Pirsig proposed that there were essentially two kinds of people: Those who model their world in terms of gestalts, as in “Zen mind” or people living “in the moment.” These people are just “flowing” with events. The others are detail oriented, focus on inner workings and rational analysis of what they see right in front of them. They confront life one task, one thought at a time. Their world is a nuts-and-bolts affair that needs perpetual maintenance.

The hero of Motorcycle Enlightenment, Alan Pierce, journeys from being the nuts-and-bolts type toward being the flowing gestalt type, and perhaps ends up an amalgamation of both, although is journey is not yet complete as the novel ends.

When we are introduced to Alan Pierce we encounter a guy whom vulgar people like to define as “anal.” He is detail oriented, obsessive about order, time, neatness and punctuality. For example, if he has a dentist’s appointment, Alan raves:

“… if I had a two-forty-five dental appointment and something interrupted my schedule, I would drive 70 miles an hour to be there on time even though I knew the dentist ran late and wouldn’t take me before three … when I have an appointment, I plan my whole day around it and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Sometimes I drive around the block four or five times …”

His near-OCD personality within the straight-jacket of American materialism has led him to the classic midlife crisis typical of the Western man in a postmodern world.

He has had success in business, accumulated some cash, but discovers that after clawing his way up the hill of the American Dream, he find himself empty and riddled with existential angst. His marriage has flamed out, ending in rancorous divorce. He maintains a shallow non-relationship relationship with his two grown children. He has sold off his businesses out of sheer boredom.

But terms like “midlife crisis” and “existential angst” are artifacts of our clueless, psychically-adrift society. What ails Alan Pierce was identified by The Buddha some 2,600 years ago. He called it the “dukkha.”

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The dukkha is the suffering — the daily, perpetually smoldering and/or raging suffering of ordinary, mundane living.

It’s the agony of the self.

More specifically, it’s the festering pain of the False Self. This is the ego construct which we start assembling from birth until it calcifies into a scab-encrusted exoskeleton surrounding and suffocating our beautiful delicate souls, which long to be free.

The ego tricks us into thinking that IT is who we are, when the fact is, the ego is little more than a mindless robot – a grab-bag-sack collection of deeply ingrained habits poured into a mold of false belief systems, propped up by the intellect, and fueled by fear. The ego has only one goal: To survive at all costs.

But wait – the Zen Master SHUNRYU SUZUKI says something interesting:

“Everyone is enlightened all the time, whether they know it or not.”

And we see can that Alan, despite his desperate state, is already much further along the path than he thinks. That’s because early on we encounter a man who is in a state of constantly watching his own thoughts and observing his own behavior.

A less informed reader might find Alan a tedious schmuck:

“ … now I am riding my motorcycle ..”

“ … now I’m walking to the electronics store to buy a microwave oven…”

“ … now I’m eating a doughnut ..”

“ … now I’m doing my laundry …”

Nuts-and-bolts, perhaps, but this seemingly narcissistic self-referencing drivel is not really that, but rather indicates a budding awakening to an awareness that leads to amazing results.

The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said that we need to start thinking of thoughts as less like ephemeral things that exist only in our minds than as actual pieces of furniture that are cluttering up our rooms. We constantly bark or shins upon or trip over all this gaudy interior decorating. (Actually, it was his winged spirit guide, PHILEMON, who told him that).

But here’s the thing about thoughts, whatever their true nature: They absolutely hate to be watched. People who start to watch their thoughts will soon discover something amazing: Your thoughts will quickly begin to act like petulant children, and ultimately, they’ll try to hide from your steady gaze. In short, if you watch your thoughts, they’ll go away.

Now a lot of people might say:

“GAK! Descartes said: ‘I think; therefore, I am.’ ”

“If my thoughts go away, so will I! I’d be nothing! And I want to be something!”

This is not true at all. Your thoughts are not who you are. They’re akin to any other material tool that we use to hammer, bend and twist things with while we ride around in our meat bodies here in physical matter reality. Thoughts can be picked up and used, but when you’re done, they should be stored away in a handy toolbox. (I like the way ECKART TOLLE puts it: “Too much thinking is like too much drinking – both are bad habits that will make you miserable”).

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Blessing the bike, photo courtesy Thaiworldview.com

Those who learn to make their thoughts go away find out that something much deeper and profound moves in to support and uplift what you truly are – it is said this “thing” has no name, but in our language-limited existence we struggle to call it “beingness,” “presence,” “suchness,” “pure consciousness,” or whatever.

The fact is, you continue to have existence. You are still in the same world, except everything is not such drag anymore – yes, you’ll even still have thoughts – but now you are being carried along in a kind of blissful natural flow.

You were enlightened all along and you never knew it!

Alan finds his way through yoga, meditation and by stripping his life of the majority of his material possession. Like Ulysses, he finds unexpected help along the way – a lovely real estate agent, and a wonderfully materteral landlord (whom I kept picturing as Aunt Bea from the old Andy Griffith show).

AND NOW A LAST IMPORTANT POINT:

This is a book that you can read on any level you want. It can be a delightful story with a breezy atmosphere that takes you along for pleasant seaside walks, strolls along boardwalks, time-outs for contemplation on park benches  – all with frequent breaks for doughnuts, pizza and naps!

It’s great escapism. Who wouldn’t want to enter the world of a character who doesn’t have to work, has all the cash he needs, and is still handsome enough to attract the adoring attention of pretty real estate agents?

I felt enriched when I got to the last page. I felt rested and uplifted – lighter.

So, all the intellectualizing I inflicted upon you through most of this review is strictly extracurricular blather for wonks like me with who like to bloviate about philosophical clap-trap – but it’s also nice to know there’s enough meat available in these pages for those who likes to read between the lines.

Charles Sides does not beat his reader over the head. He’s a subtle writer who shows us stuff while entertaining. But don’t be surprised if you absorb a deeper message from these pages while joining this guy on a journey of Motorcycle Enlightenment.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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‘Babe In The Woods’ by Frank DeMarco: Destined to be a cult classic on par with David Lindsay’s ‘Voyage to Arcturus’

babeReview by: KEN KORCZAK

I experienced a minor synchronistic “mind blast” while reading this book.

Sometimes an author’s style will remind me of another writer, but I can’t put my finger on it right away. In this case, it had been nagging at me for some 250 pages, like a steady itch. Then suddenly on page 255 it crashed into my mind: CLIFFORD SIMAK! That’s it! Ahhh! The itch was scratched!

But now the “mind blast”: I finished reading page 255 and at the bottom of page 256, lo and behold, I find this sentence:

“I though, unexpectedly, of Clifford Simak. Years ago, when I was a kid, I read one of his science fiction stories …”

Woo-hoo!

I don’t mean to make too much of it, but it was just one of those tiny “That was a neat feeling!” moments of synchronicity when you get buffeted unexpectedly by a wave on the ocean of Universal Consciousness.

Anyway – after 250 pages of  BABE IN THE WOODS  – I think anyone would become more in tune to transcendent wavelengths. This book not only gives you an idea of what it is like to tap into expanded consciousness, but dishes out insight after insight – it actually makes you feel what it might be like to push yourself to the edge of higher consciousness – a rare literary feat.

It tells the story of an ordinary group of people from widely divergent walks of life and professions who come together to challenge themselves – to open up their minds, to reach for new concepts, to expand what it means to be an “ordinary” human being in our dreary world calcified by scientific-materialism.

The model for the situation is a real-life program offered by THE MONROE INSTITUTE of Faber, Virginia. The Monroe Institute is an organization founded by the late ROBERT MONROE who became famous after publishing his first book about his experiences with out-of-body travel.

“Journeys Out of Body” came out in 1971. It was an unlikely bestseller, and was followed up with two more books, “Far Journeys,” and “Ultimate Journey.”

Perhaps no other books on astral travel have been more influential. Part of the reason is that Robert Monroe had never been a mystic or associated with any of the established traditions (such as Theosophy, for example, or Eastern religions) which trucked in arcane dabblings like “soul travel” (which also had scary occult overtones for many mainstream folks).

Monroe was no-nonsense, successful businessman who had made a considerable fortune in the burgeoning 1940s-50s world of radio. He was an entirely grounded, nuts-and-bolts kind of guy. However, in the late 1950s, he began to undergo unwanted spontaneous out-of-body experiences. This prompted the pragmatic Monroe to launch into an intense study of what was happening to him.

The eventual result was the establishment of the Monroe Institute. Its original purpose was to study the OBE and all of the mind-boggling implications which fall out of the possibility that our physical bodies are not “all that there is,” and indeed, that what we perceive as physical-material reality is not nearly all there is to consider.

The Monroe Institute developed a number of methods, mostly centered on sound technology that was designed to help any person achieve a state of higher or altered consciousness. These sound technologies leveraged something called binaural beats – and I won’t go into detail here about them, except to say that it was demonstrated that when people listened to binaural beats through headphones while in a highly relaxed state and in a supportive environment, the result could be an out-of-body experience, or some kind of realization of transcendent thought – in short, an expansion of the mind.

So this book, Babe In The Woods, takes us through a group of people who have decided to put themselves through the paces of a Monroe Institute program – except here it is thinly fictionalized as the “Merriman Institute.” Robert Monroe himself is fictionalized as “C.T” and his famous book, Journeys Out of Body is renamed “Extraordinary Potential.”

This is an incredibly ambitious book because it necessarily must employ a large group of characters – some two dozen people involved in the program – whom the author is tasked with not only introducing us to, but must rely on the reader’s patience as he builds them into believable characters of some depth, enough so that we can care about them and learn from them later.

The viewpoint character is modeled on the author himself — DeMarco is a veteran of several Monroe Institute programs.

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Frank DeMarco

DeMarco’s fictional incarnation is Angelo Chiari, a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer. The premise is that his editor sends him to the Merriman Institute to do some stealthy investigative journalism – and hopefully come out with an expose that might blow the lid off the weird snake oil the Institute is most likely selling to gullible people with enough money and desperation to seek answers to life anywhere.

But these journalist are professionals – both editor and reporter are not out to do a pre-determined hack job. Rather, they intend to get the story in a fair and objective manner. They’ll go where the facts lead them. If reporter Angel Chiari finds a legitimate program – he’ll write about that. If not, it’s blast away with both journalistic barrels. He very much expects it to be the latter, however.

The Chiari character is a classic example of what Henry Thoreau meant when he said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Chiari’s career is okay, but on cruise control. His work has long since become bland and meaningless. The heat of his decades-long marriage has cooled to a husband and wife more akin to roommates. His relationship with his children is shallow and distant.

Chiari holds no particular cherished beliefs. He’s a rational-materialist cog in the post-modern machine. He gets up every day and goes through the motions, running out the time clock on his life. His existence is like a tasteless block of tofu.

Perhaps it’s his training as a journalist that saves him – his fundamental dedication to objectivity leaves the door open just enough for Chiari to approach the Merriman program with an open mind and reserved judgment. That small crack in that door is enough for the Larger Consciousness System (to borrow a term from physicist Tom Campbell) to send Chiari tantalizing, subtle clues to convince him that, by golly, there might be something more to his existence – something remarkable..

This is the fourth Frank DeMarco book I have read. His writing style puts me in the mind of not only Simak, but also Sinclair Lewis (winner of the Noble Prize for Literature). That’s because there is a certain workmanlike doggedness to the way DeMarco hammers out his themes, and the way he develops and cobbles together his messages.

DeMarco somehow leverages the necessarily mundane and uses it to fetch glimpses of the transcendent. He is like a grounded, unspectacular Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, but bringing it back to us with the stolid work ethic of a UPS delivery truck driver.

Because of that, the insights we gain ultimately feel deeper and more authentic. DeMarco’s works are characterized by a  persistent and worrisome expression of doubt – the uncertainty of a person who knows he is threading a fine line between making sense of highly original and novel forms of information — while ever cognizant of the innate capacity of the human mind to fool itself with egoic delusions and struggles with Freudian “wish fulfillment.”

I’m guessing that Babe In the Woods, published in 2008, has since found only a small audience, but I can imagine it developing an ardent cult following – much in the same way that A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by Scottish writer DAVID LINDSAY has persisted and moved people since it was published in 1920.

You might be wondering how I can compare the syrupy surrealism of Lindsay’s ‘Voyage’ with DeMarco’s more staid ‘Babe,’ but I would challenge the reader to read both — tell me if you don’t see that, in a weird way, both works have the same heart.

Clifford Simak, Sinclair Lewis, David Lindsay — Frank DeMarco stands with guys like these in the literary world – and that’s not a bad place to stand, indeed.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Talking to the dead: Medium Suzanne Giesemann insists on real evidence

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a fascinating book because it is anchored by a story that seems almost too sensational to be true, yet the evidence would seem to indicate that it is true.

Author and professional medium Suzanne Giesemann also brings an added aura of credibility — her former career as a high-ranking U.S. Naval officer provides a sense of grounding – here seems to be a no-nonsense person we can trust to be level-headed, honest and highly responsible.

Before taking on the life of a professional speaker-to-the-dead, Giesemann spent 20-years in military service, retiring with the rank of Commander. She served at the highest levels; she was Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Anyone not knowing her background, and upon reading this book, might peg her as among the most airy-fairy of New Agers. This book, Wolf’s Message, has it all – all the (seeming) New Age fluff it can muster, and more.

There’s channeling of the dead, communication with advanced collective beings, angels, psychic phenomena, trance states – and so many of the common accouterments of New Agers – power crystals, dream catchers, runes for casting, angelic clouds, mandalas, sacred geometry, Hemi-Sync CDs – it’s almost as if the author used went into one of those New Age trinket shops in a place like Sedona, Arizona, and bought `one of each,’ then worked them all into her narrative.

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Suzanne Giesemann

But the real foundation of this book is the astounding details surrounding the death of a young Plymouth, Massachusetts, man by the name of Mike Pasakarnis, who went by the nickname “Wolf.” He was struck dead by a freak lightning bolt.

Remarkably, this is the same way the step-daughter of the author died. Giesemann’s step-daughter was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines at the time. But that’s just one of the eye-popping confluence in this story.

The details of Wolf’s death, his prediction of his own death, the seemingly incontrovertible evidence of that, his after-death communication – it will all blow your mind.

I don’t want to give away too many details and ruin this read for anyone, but the circumstances of Wolf’s death, and Giesemann’s subsequent afterdeath communications with him, are intriguing, to say the least.

Note that Giesemann calls herself an “evidential medium.” That means she’s all about getting the hard facts – solid, undeniable proof that the voices she hears in her psychic head must be and truly are the spirit of the dearly departed.

It is important to note that this book goes well beyond the scope of merely communicating with a deceased person and passing on that information to his grieving parents – Giesemann uses the overall scenario as a platform to deliver up much wider, deeper and more penetrating spiritual lesson for her readers.

If you ask me, her prose is a bit over-the-top. Her style comes off as super-sticky-sugary New Agey schlock. Here enthusiasm is almost tiring – practically on every other page Giesemann reports being “stunned!” “astounded!” “awestruck!” “weeping with gratitude!” “blown away!” “blissful!” – the superlatives just keep gushing forth, as if a dam holding back a lake of Holy Water has breached.

But you know what? That’s okay. Suzanne Giesemann is clearly all heart. She’s a sincere-to-the-bone explorer of transcendent realms. She is driven to bring us a message of unstoppable, monumental cosmic hope. Why hold back?

I encourage everyone to get this book and be prepared to be “awestruck!”

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Paul Elder joins a pantheon of famous out-of-body travelers with semi-autobiographical book

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

So here I am reviewing another book by a man with ties to the MONROE INSTITUTE, the consciousness research and training facility in Faber, Virginia.

Like so many others, PAUL ELDER, a Canadian and former TV broadcast personality, was inspired by reading “Journeys Out Of Body” by Robert Monroe, the namesake of the Institute.

But Elder said he all-but forgot about the book after reading it years ago. Then he unexpectedly encountered his own spontaneous out-of-body experience. Suddenly, that strange but somewhat unbelievable book didn’t seem so unbelievable anymore.

Elder went back to the library and re-read all of Monroe’s books – and so began his own personal journey into the “astral realms” and beyond.

Here you will find many of the same experiences reported by other famous Monroe Institute alums – the experience of the soul (or energy body, or second body, or choose your term) leaving the physical body behind to hover around the bedroom, float through walls and go soaring through the local earth-like environment.

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Paul Elder

Eventually, the explorer graduates from mere “fooling around” inside his own home or the immediate environment to penetrate more exotic realms – higher plains of existence, upper levels of spiritual dwelling, cosmic libraries and the abodes of other earthlings who have passed on.

Angelic beings and entities that defy categorization are also encountered.

If you are familiar with other Monroe-associated writers — such as Monroe himself, William Buhlman, Rosalind McKnight, Bruce Moen – Paul Elders book might seem like “more of the same.”

Still, the author brings enough of his unique personality, personal history, story and background to make this a more than a worthwhile, inspiring read. There is no doubting Elder’s passion for his subject, his sincerity, and I believe, the authenticity of experience.

In addition to his OBE experiments, Elder tells of three harrowing brushes with death which resulted in near death experiences (NDEs) — a drowning, a car accident and a heart attack.

He survived all!

Elder’s NDE elements add dimension to the big issues conjured by altered states of consciousness sought out in a proactive way.

One last thing: The writing itself is clear and straightforward, but Elder occasionally rises to higher literary heights with descriptions of the mysterious astral realms. At times, his words shimmer and scintillate across the page – it’s no small challenge to relate the exotic experience of the OBE, describe strange environments, and explain trans-psychological processes. I give high marks to this author for rising to the challenge when he needs to.

If you are like me, and can’t get enough of these kinds of books, then you must have this volume in your collection.

See book details here: EYES OF AND ANGEL

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Erika Hayasaki turns in an absorbing piece of journalism telling a tragic tale from America’s farm country

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This Kindle Single is an incredibly compelling piece of long-form journalism than reads like a gripping novel. It’s the agonizing true story of a tragedy that befalls three young people in America’s heartland, and the consequences that played out over the next three years.

In the summer of 2010, three young men, Will Piper, Alex “Paco” Pacas and Wyatt Whitebread took jobs working for a grain elevator complex in the small town of Mount Carroll, Illinois, deep in the heart of America’s Corn Belt.

In a case of egregiously poor judgment, lack of oversight and stunning disregard for federal safety regulations, the boys were directed to climb inside a large grain bin filled with tons of corn. Their job was to loosen up clots of kernels where they tended to stick along the sides of the metal bin so that the grain would auger smoothly out the bottom.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail and rob too much of the story for the reader, except to say that three young men went inside the bin, and only one came back out alive. The survivor, Will Piper, was nearly killed as well, but far worse, he was an up-close witness to the horrifying suffocation of his two friends. One of them was just 15 years old.

Journalist ERIKA HAYASAKI delivers a masterful piece of writing. She tells a sensational story without ever sensationalizing. She never falls prey to melodramatic hype or gratuitous sentimentalism. She maintains an uncanny discipline by writing within herself — and by that I mean that she renders this story as a “just-the-facts” journalist.

Hayasaki is the kind of writer who is savvy enough to recognize when the true details are enough in themselves to deliver a captivating drama. I must add: What’s truly magical is how Hayasaki manages to make the reader feel the emotional impacts, the sense of heartfelt tragedy and the numbing confusion about the unexpected random cruelty of life can dish out — and she does it all while staying in command of her professional objectivity as a reporter. It’s brilliant!

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Erika Hayasaki

There is background theme to this work as well. Hayasaki has chosen to position this case against a troubling phenomenon — the ascendancy of the commodity of corn to a place where it has become extraordinarily pervasive in our lives.

The dominance of corn is a complex issue. It encompasses global food production, distribution and other fundamental choices about how we are managing what we eat and the environment — but also — corn has become a enormous factor in other areas of our economy. We dump corn into our gas tanks in the form of ethanol, we use it to make plastics, and an array of other non-food materials that reach deeply into our lives. Is it sustainable?

At first, I thought the author was taking a wrong turn in this regard; however, she ends up not letting this overarching issue consume too much of the primary narrative, and the corn factor ends up being tantalizing food for thought. (No pun intended).

This is the second Erika Hayasaki work I have read. The first, another Kindle Single titled “Dead or Alive,” (I review it here on Amazon), and that was an equally skillful and impressive piece of writing. so I would recommend you check out that one too.

It’s great stuff.

You can find this book online here: DROWNED BY CORN

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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The Cicada Prophecy by new author J.R. McLeay is thought-provoking science fiction that entertains

81VebM11eoL._SL1500_Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The best science fiction is hard science fiction — and the best hard science fiction is that which takes real-life, complex and thorny issues of science, and injects them into a compelling story with an intriguing plot played out by likable, interesting characters.

This book, THE CICADA PROPHECY does all of that.

It’s not only a top-notch SF read, but it has a unique enough flavor and style that proves, once again, hard science fiction can still be made fresh while working within the confines of genre fiction.

The science at the center of this yarn is the biology of aging, sex and reproduction, and mankind’s eternal quest to cheat death by tampering with the rules of Mother Nature.

We are up against billions of years of biological evolution — and the question is, can our super science grapple with what nature has decreed? Can we boldly change the rule-set of the ancient game? Can we really make our biological bodies live forever? Can we cheat death? And if we do, will there be some kind of trade-off? Will there be a terrible price to pay for upending the “natural order of things?”

This premise is by far nothing new in science fiction, but author J.R. McLEAY pumps new life into into the situation by creating a world where the majority of the human population has opted to remain frozen in pre-adolescence.

That’s right. The entire human population are now fresh-faced 12-year-olds!

But they have the minds of adults because they are many decades old!

In The Cicada Prophecy, yet another science fictional Brave New World-like scenario — (or Frankenstein, or Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children or Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind) — the hubris of humanity is at it again.

This time meddlesome scientists have arrested the aging process by preventing sexual maturation, and they do that by clipping the pituitary gland in the brain. They replace the hormones once regulated by the pituitary with a skin patch that delivers the cocktail of hormones the body needs to stay a healthy adolescent.

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The 17-year cicada

The viewpoint character is the brilliant Dr. Richard Ross. Let me tell you — a more suave, charming, brave, kind and intelligent character has not bestrided the stage of science fiction for some time. What’s terrific is that Dr. Ross is both charismatic and likable while sustaining the demeanor of a coldly logical Mr. Spock.

It’s a tribute to this author’s considerable skill in that he created a character that is a walking wonk, a bio-medical technocrat who can spew forth incredible knowledge on everything from genetics to cell biology to botany, but who also wins us over with an ever-present warmth that is understated, yet his tender, graceful demeanor is felt by the reader.

The delightful Dr. Ross can even make a visit to a dreary graveyard seem like a grand celebration of the fame and folly of mankind marching across history!

However, Dr. Ross is balanced with an antagonist which, I must admit, is a tad too cookie cutter for me — the demented fundamentalist, hell-and-brimstone preacher Calvin James — who rails that the arrogance of science will bring on the certain retribution of God — in the case, the fire-breathing, vengeful Judeo-Christian God of the Old Testament.

The Calvin James character does the minimum needed to set up the ultimate central conflict needed for tension in the narrative, but the way the character is handled is, in my view, a missed opportunity to bring more depth to the overall theme of the book. The raving preacher is too simplistic — but again, I’ll just leave it there because I don’t think this does enough damage to tarnish the overall luster of the novel.

(Note: I could also take issue with some of the way Darwin is oversimplified with too much emphasis on the “survival of the fittest” subset element of his work, and the way the author rattles around inside the box of an age-old dilemma — the vexing issue of cause-and-effect that continues to haunt the eschatology of material science today — but again, I’ll beg off on that too).

All in all: No worries! This is a marvelously entertaining work of science fiction that one can kick back and enjoy while rooting for the heroes, hissing at the villains … and if a bit of education on cutting edge biology happens to seep osmosis-like into your brain along the way, well, all the better.

The Cicada Prophecy gets my top recommendation.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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The ghost of Ernest Hemingway: Still eloquent in the Afterlife

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This is the second FRANK DeMARCO book I’ve read. The first was “A Place To Stand,” and I think anyone who reads both of the above will be sufficiently impressed that here is a guy who not merely another frivolous New Age writer raving from the fringe, or some person seeking to capitalize on the name of Hemingway merely to sell a book.

This is an intelligent book of substance that should intrigue long-time Hemingway fans, and give us pause to consider the implications of what it might really be like to have a one-on-one chat with an American literary giant.

There is ample historic president for these kinds of books, in particular, Jane Robert’s (author of Seth Speaks), “channeling” of the American philosopher William James. That book came out in 1977; James died in 1910.

Another famous example: Emily Grant Hutchings and a medium using an Ouija board took “dictation” from the spirit of Mark Twain to produce an entirely new novel, “Jap Herron.” It was published in 1916, six years after Twain’s death.

In 1869, a medium “downloaded” a fresh novel written by the deceased Emily Brontë; It’s presented in a book called “Strange Visitors” edited by an esteemed legal scholar, Henry J. Horn.

So DeMarco is backed by solid tradition, and the precedent of others who have written amazingly high quality books in this way.

Beginning in 2004, DeMarco, using the time-honored, method of automatic writing, made psychic contact Hemingway and engaged in a vigorous post-death conversation with Hemingway. The dialogue resulted in this book.

In it, Hemingway clears the deck on dozens of misconceptions he says numerous biographers and academics have besmirched upon his life, work and legacy over the years.

Not that he’s particularly angry or blames living biographers who, after all, only gave it their best shot. It’s just that, Hemingway says the game is rigged. Writing a truly accurate biography is fundamentally impossible. The deceased Hemingway tells DeMarco:

“To write a true biography you would need to do impossible things, such as:

* See and feel and think and react as the subject would have done.

* Contain within yourself all the subject’s background, including people, places, books he’s read, the news of the day (day by day), the daydream he had, the talents and aversions and every aspect of his personality.

* Know everything that had ever happened to him and some that happened only around him, and from multiple points of view.

* Know every strand that operated within him, and in what proportion and in what circumstances, including the tremendous amount he didn’t realize himself.

*Know at least something of why he came into life (or, you might say, what the potential or that particular mixture of elements was) and see how one thing could express only at the expense of others, and hence what tensions set up.”

That all makes sense, when you think about it. Certainly, the dead Hemingway has a knack for bringing an unclouded, common-sense kind of wisdom to vexing questions and thorny issues.

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Frank DeMarco

Another example: DeMarco asks Hemingway to explain something controversial the macho-man writer once said, that he would “rather beat someone up than read a good book.” (This in light of Hemingway’s well-known love of boxing and barroom brawling).

Hemingway, from his perch in the Afterlife, defends his statement this way:

“All right … who are you talking to? In this case I mean, what age Hemingway? The answer you’d get from a 20-year-old isn’t what you’d get ten years later, or thirty, or after-the-fact entirely … the whole point of living is not to be the same year by year, but to change — I didn’t prefer beating somebody up to reading a good book. Just count the number of people I beat up and the number of books I read!”

Still eloquent in death, Hemingway scores again!

DeMarco’s book is loaded with gems like these. Hemingway’s quips zero in like sharpened darts, hitting dead-on rhetorical bullseyes time and again.

If this is not the actual spirit of Hemingway speaking through DeMarco, then DeMarco himself is one clever wordsmith.

But wait a minute — DeMarco cautions us that just who is actually communicating here is a tad more complicated than you might think. Here is the way DeMarco struggles to define his trans-death connection with the deceased writer:

“I think you mean to say that Hemingway 1899-1961 and DeMarco 1946-20-whatever do not touch, and that I have been thinking that DeMarco-46 was touching the spirit of Hemingway-99, but it may be more accurate to say that the larger being of which DeMarco-46 is a part is communicating with the larger being of which Hemingway-99 is a part, and the two time-bound parts are having a sort of virtual conversation.”

In other words, most people assume that when you contact the spirit of a dead person, you are speaking to the exact person/ego-construct/personality of that same person when he or she was alive.

ErnestHemingway

Papa

But there is not a Person A = Person A situation vis-a-vis the live version of a person and the afterlife version of that same person.

After we pass over to the other side, we apparently expand our consciousnesses to embody the “whole self,” or perhaps “soul self.” We become aligned with the so-called Oversoul.

For the dead, the ego-self recedes into the background because the ego is actually an elaborate, artificial coping/defense construct designed to function in the environment of our earth-bound, physical matter reality. The ego is too often shaped by fears and desires, and is a reactor rather than an actor within a material system. Yet, after death, we can still operate from an ego-based platform if we want to …

What I really like about Afterdeath Conversations With Hemingway is that it reads not like the typical spooky and/or smarmy medium-channeled stuff, but as an insightful, intelligent and piercing series of observations by a savvy writer, who just happens to be positioned in the non-physical realm.

DeMarco’s book makes the extraordinary situation of speaking with the dead seem as commonplace as chatting with your Uncle Ned via Skype.

With dogged attention to detail, DeMarco combs through the issues that were the passions of Hemingway’s vigorous life — World War I, the Spanish Civil War, the American psyche, the artistic culture of Europe, big game hunting, deep sea fishing, writing and literature. Hemingway discusses what it meant to be an American, an emerging modern man in a nation straining to become the next superpower.

What about his suicide? Hemingway is actually rather blasé and dismissive of the whole issue. He called suicide “the family exit.” Hemingway’s father committed suicide, as did his brother, Leicester, and sister, Ursula. The dead Hemingway says of his suicide:

“When I left the body — when I blew myself out of that situation — I knew what I was doing, and why. I wasn’t emotionally distraught, I wasn’t out of my mind, and I wasn’t even depressed — once I figured out how to get out … the bad effects of suicide have a lot more to do with attitudes that with the given act.”

After his death, Hemingway tells DeMarco that he now manifests himself in the spirit world as a 30-something-year-old.

“I went back to being in my mid-thirties,” Hemingway said. “I was happy then. I’d taken my lumps and I’d already left Hadley, (first wife Hadley Richardson) which was a stupid thing to do but there you are, and I was in the prime of life.”

The bottom line: This is a marvelous read, well worthy of five stars, and gets my top recommendation.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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