More than one Kim Philby

Soviets had assets at the top of the Western security apparatus, such as:

[...] Kurt, one of the most valuable agents of the Soviet inteligence, who might be compared with legendary Kim Philby. Kurt was the nickname of the ex-SS Haupsturmfuerer Heinz Felfe [...] the head of the department of "counterespionage against the USSR and the Soviet missions". [...]

Only in 1969, Russians managed to exchange Felfe for 18 agents of the West German and 3 agents of the American intelligence. The exchange took place at the point of entry at Heerleshausen on the border of the two German states. After the release Felfe found his domicile in the German Democratic Republic. In March, 2008, Felfe is to celebrate his 90th birthday [...]



The bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun

Russian security service comes clean on the whereabouts of Hitler's remains:

On May 4, «in a shell-hole nearby the bunker of the Fuehrer, two more – female and male - corpses were discovered. Both were strongly scorched and it was impossible to identify them without corresponding examination. Corpses had been delivered to the counterespionage department of the 3rd assault army. After forensic examination they were buried in the outskirts of the city of Buch. Due to relocation of department of counterespionage “the corpses were withdrawn and transported to the area of Finow, and then on June 3, 1945, to the area of Rathenow, where they finally were inhumed”. It was only on March 20, 1970, when on the initiative of then the KGB chief Yuri Andropov, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a plan that received the code name Operation Archive. In 15 days an operative group of five agents under Colonel Kovalenko arrived to Westend Strasse 36 in the city of Magdeburg. Remains of Hitler and Eva Braun had been delivered there. Colonel Kovalenko handwrote a report on re-exhumation of the remains that they were put into a box in the night and morning on April 4, 1970. Then in the morning of April 5, 1970, the remains were cremated. Ashes together with coal «was mixed up to condition of homogeneous volume, collected and spilled out in the waters of the nearest river».  SOURCE


90 years of KGB

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the formation of what would become the KGB.

Cheka, headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky, at first had only 23 employees [...]

In 1921 it numbered over 30,000 officers, agents and even border guards [...]

At the height of the Cold War, the organisation, which changed its name again to the KGB, the organisation serving as the Soviet Union's premier security agency, secret police and intelligence agency, maintained thousands of agents in foreign countries. At home its web of millions of informers permeated every sphere of public life [...]



Conspiracy theory feedlot

Every conspiracy theory buff knows about the Carlyle Group. Basically, it is not a nice creature.

From the disinformation encyclopedia - WikiPedia:

Critics of the Carlyle Group frequently note its connections to various political figures. Some of the sectors and companies in which it invests are highly sensitive to political activity; indeed, its actions may be viewed as a form of political arbitrage. This may create conflicts of interest when political decision makers have their own personal wealth linked to such investments. Carlyle is the largest private equity firm located in Washington, D.C. - its corporate headquarters are located on Pennsylvania Avenue. Some have also linked Carlyle to some of lesser-known companies that have been linked to US Intelligence, such as Centre Analytics and In-Q-Tel.


Carlyle acquired United Defense Industries in October 1997, bringing in over 60% of Carlyle's defense business.

Well. Listen to this now:

David Rubenstein, co-founder and president of The Carlyle Group, has bought at auction a 710-year old copy of the Magna Carta. He paid $21.3 million for it.

Word has it the the Carlyle Group holds major investments in shredder manufacturing business...

Who REALLY killed JFK

So, the FBI admits that the official investigation to the assassination of JFK is full of holes. Now, the questions is: Are we ever going to find out what really happened?

Here's what I heard from an old spy, one with roots in the OSS days:

“You know what they will find when they open the file on JFK? Nothing. There will be nothing in it.”

I disagree. This is still too big a story to simply brush it away with - "Hey, it all evaporated!" What we'll find will be fine-tuned to present a plausible and undeniable show - after all they had decades to come up with a good story. For crying out loud - Kubrick had only weeks to produce the Moon landing and it sticks.


Are writers loners?

Some say writing is a lonely activity and therefore writers are loners.

Writers are hungry for the world around them. They devour human drama, desperation, pain, madness, crimes, despair... In their hunger they are insatiable and thus - often difficult to put up with. But, I would not say - loners. Solitary, perhaps. Solitude as a choice of lifestyle, or rather - a necessity.

Just because someone craves solitude does not mean one is a loner. Even when the number of friends and colleagues dwindles, one is not necessarily lonely. True loneliness starts when one does not want to see friends, when one does not want to make new friends, and when one does not want to share thoughts or experiences with friends. Even so - it is loneliness by choice, driven by compulsion, but as such it leads to freedom. No?


Literary Agent from Hell

I mentioned before how my forage into foreign publishing markets ended up in me being swindled and robbed.

To recap: a Polish literary Agent Iza Garztecka sold my novel to a Polish publishing house, took the money and vanished. True agent from Hell. Quite fittingly the name of the agency was HELfa.

Turns out I was not the only sucker: literary agents and authors lost advance fees to this thief.

So much for the so called reputable and long established agents - Garztecka took over after her father who was an agent, dealing mostly with the music world. Now Garztecka's son is starting his own literary agency...

Let this be a warning to all authors and agents who seek representation in lands with poorly defined laws, and where no professional organizations (such as AAR) exist. Keep it in mind before using my literary agent listing - verify every agent's track record before signing on.


What is good for Venezuela

Reading Philip Agee's CIA DIARY, in light of the events taking place today in Venezuela, one cannot help but conclude that what is good for Chavez' country might be good for USA:

American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force - without a secret police force. The argument is with capitalism and it is capitalism that must be opposed, with its CIA, FBI and other security agencies understood as logical, necessary manifestations of a ruling class's determination to retain power and privilege.

Now, more than ever, indifference to injustice at home and abroad is impossible. Now, more clearly than ever, the extremes of poverty and wealth demonstrate the irreconcilable class conflicts, that only socialist revolution can resolve. Now, more than ever, each of us is forced to make a conscious choice whether to support the system of minority comfort and privilege with all its security apparatus and repression, or whether to struggle for real equality of opportunity and fair distribution of benefits for all of society, in the domestic as well as the international order. Philip Agee in CIA Diary.

Agee wrote it in 1974, while still under the impression of the Cuban revolution, the American defeat in Vietnam, and the Watergate scandal, but he might as well have written it yesterday. His words apply to the USA, Venezuela and everywhere else. Agee was a CIA officer who worked in Latin America, and that's were his eyes opened. Mine did, and your will too if you step beyond those Acapulcos and Cancuns...

One thing that Agee does not see, is that socialism, much as capitalism requires repressive apparatus of secret police to sustain itself.


PENTAGON - the enemy of the People

These generals, their think tanks and military planners have looked at the changing political situation, new developments in technology and where the new centers of super-profit would be. [...]

U.S./NATO bases have been established in every country of Eastern Europe and a growing number of former Soviet republics. Each country that joins NATO is forced to further indenture itself to equip its military with U.S. weapons and to send its troops as “volunteers” to fight U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO bases now surround and encircle Russia. SOURCE


Lucy Maud Montgomery - house in Norval

lucy maud montgomeryLucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, spent a part of her life in the small village of Norval. Her husband, Ewan, was a minister there (he married E's great-grand parents in PEI some years before moving to Norval). Norval is prettily situated on the river, not far from the popular hiking trails of Terra Cotta (which is how we found it, quite by accident).

Lucy Maud wrote 5 novels in Norval. In her diaries she talked about the pond across the river(now a marsh, visible from the windows), and the Russell pines which you can still see from her tiny study and the bedroom windows.

The house is still used by ministers, and nothing of Lucy Maud's can be found inside apart from the fireplace and a single ceiling light fixture.  More

Photo 1 - House and the church:

lucy maud montgomery

Photo 2 - House, southern exposure:

lucy maud montgomery

Photo 3 - E and the Lucy Maud's house:

lucy maud montgomery

Photo 4 - E in Lucy Maud's bedroom:

lucy maud montgomery


Justification for Civil Disobedience

Times are ripe to think about it:

In a democratic society each man must act as he thinks the principles of political right require him to. We are to follow our understanding of the principles, and we cannot do otherwise. There can be no morally binding legal interpretation of these principles, not even by supreme court or legislature. [...] Although the Court has the final say in settling any particular case, it is not immune from powerful political influences that may change its reading of the law. [...] The final court of appeal is not the Court, or Congress, or the President, but the electorate as a whole.
John Rawls (professor of philosophy at Harvard University) in: The Justification of Civil Disobedience


Novel inspiration

This weekend marked the 18th anniversary of the event that inspired my latest novel: the assassination of the Jesuit scholars in El Salvador.

The murderers were graduates of the American School of Assassins at Fort Benning, and recipients of military aid aimed at terrorizing the civilian population.

Martyred Jesuits were the faculty of the Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador. Their deaths brought to the world's attention the criminal activities of the US government: training of assassins and torturers that terrorize Latin America: from murdering, torturing, raping, and "disappearing" to staging coups - such as the overthrowing of Salvador Allende in Chile.

Lat weekend, over 11,000 protesters gathered outside of the Fort Benning were murderers are trained courtesy of US taxpayer. Among the protesters was Dennis Kucinich, Jesuits, students, families of the murdered and disappeared, and scores of people of conscience. Vigils in support of the protest were staged across America.

Jesuits murdered 18 years ago:


Fr Ignacio Ellacuría Beascoechea (1930-1989)

Lopez Quintana

Fr Amando López Quintana (1936-1989)

Lopez y Lopez

Fr Joaquín López y López (1918-1989)


Fr Ignacio Martín Baró (1942-1989)

Segundo Montes

Fr Segundo Montes Mozo (1933-1989)

Moreno Pardo

Fr Juan Ramón Moreno Pardo (1933-1989)


British double-agent honored in Moscow

Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, SVR, honored one of Moscow's most important Soviet-era spies. The former British spy George Blake, who was recruited by the KGB in the 1950s, and went on to play a key role in Soviet intelligence gathering during the Cold War, is celebrating his 85th birthday. Blake revealed the names of more than 400 Western agents to his Soviet handlers, at least forty were captured as a result many were executed, according to Russia Today TV channel.
"The information provided by Blake was always acute, precise and extremely important," Sergei Ivanov, the Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman, told The Associated Press. He refused to say how many Western spies Blake exposed. READ MORE from SOURCE


The BIG sham

Former Boston University professor and political activist Howard Zinn last night said Americans need to “withdraw our obedience from our government” in response to what he called government deception surrounding modern wars.

“The war on terrorism is a sham,” Zinn said at Morse Auditorium. “Terrorism is an idea that exists all over. You can’t make war on it. If terrorism is the killing of innocent people for some presumed important purpose, then making a war on people is terrorism. War is terrorism. The terrorism of our war in Iraq has killed far, far more people than were killed in the twin towers.”

Zinn said a revolution is the only option Americans have to bring about change and charged his audience of more than 200 to form a “people’s” movement toward a “different world.”



Intelligence bloopers explained

Well, at last we have an "explanation" for all those intelligence bloopers of the last 7 years:
In his first public speech since taking over as Director-General of The Security Service (better known as MI5 and tasked with internal security) in April, Jonathan Evans, 49, expressed his disappointment about Russian, Chinese and others spying that distracts British intelligence from accute terrorism threat. Source

Does it also explain fabrication of intelligence about the so called terrorism?


Spy made a national hero

The only Soviet spy who managed to infiltrate secret US nuclear facilities has been honoured posthumously with Russia's highest honorary title by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia Today TV channel reports. It says the 'Hero of Russia' medal was donated to Moscow's Military Intelligence Museum.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Vladimir Putin stressed this man's work strengthened Russia's defence capabilities considerably. During World War II, George Koval, also known as 'Delmar', collected secret information about the production of the first US atomic bomb and sent it to Moscow. Koval's work drastically reduced the amount of time it took for Russia to develop its nuclear weapons, Russia Today marks.


Original novel vs translation

As I feared earlier - translation of my own novel is resulting in a book that differs from the original. So far, and I'm talking here about a perspective taken from the first few chapters - I see a plot that begs to go in a different direction and my main character as developing into a whole different person.

I thought that translating will be more or less word for word, with some creative transitions, but it wasn't working out that way. The only way I could do it was to read the original chapter, and rather than translate sentence after sentence - I'd do the whole thing without following the original text. I found that the result was much smoother and creative. Perhaps too creative... giving the new text a life of its own. Where does translation end and when does original work begin? How far can I go on, before I can call this translation an original? And, can I?

One other thing the translation of my own novel teaches me is the appreciation of there being different languages. I hope that humanity will never come to embrace a single language (unless we figure out how to combine many into one, but even then I would have my reservations: what about the different cultural experiences) as it will lead to a world much less colorful. Describing the same thought in a different language seems to give it a whole different life, life that is richer and more creative.


Agent from Hell

Something really spooky happened to me today - I received a message from the dead.

First a little background. Two years ago my European agent sold translation rights to my first novel to a Polish publishing house. The advance she received from the house she was supposed to wire to me, but instead for well over a year she kept insisting that the publisher did not pay. As this dragged on, I got frustrated (how could one of- if not the- biggest publishing houses of Eastern Europe have such a mess in their accounting practices?), so I got a hold of the main accounted and... was presented with proof of money paid to the agent well over a year earlier. So, I confronted the agent, and received... no, not an apology, but a promise that the advance will be paid to me. The agent said: The cheque is in the mail (yeah! she actually used the line). Well, some two months later, and no cheque, I was contacted by somebody claiming to be the business liquidator, saying that the agent died... along with all the claims against her.

What can I say? I wished the poor woman to rest in peace and I described my experience in my blog.

Well, image my hair raising surprise, when today a nasty anonymous comment appeared under that very post where I describe what happened with my big entry onto the Polish market: the comment came from the very IP account that all of my "dead" agent's correspondence originated from.

Risen from the grave? Sending message from the great beyond?

This may sound humorous until you take into account that this happens two days before Halloween and one of Catholic Europe's holiest holidays - the day of the dead...

The spy behind the Rosenbergs

Alexander Feklisov, the Soviet spy who ran Julius and Ethel Rosenberg has died in Moscow.
He arrived in New York in 1941 and worked there till 1946. Shortly after arrival, he began running Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who supplied the Soviet Union with top secret information on the US Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb.

More about it here


How to write a novel

I've been chatting with P.D. P is a well known crime fiction writer. The topic was sparked by a question P was asked the other day by one of his readers. It happens to be one of the most asked questions: "How does one write a novel?", followed by "What education does one need to become a writer?"

Ho to write a novel? It isn't something that can be answered in a single post. In fact, I doubt it can be answered at all. One can try though. So, P and I started with the second question, which is ludicrous on many levels. Education. What is it good for? We've agreed that the value of education in life is highly overrated.

Why? Well, let's use an example the majority of people can relate to: how much of the higher education does one use in everyday life, including at work? Sure, in some cases education is necessary: one can hardly be a doctor, an engineer or an astronomer without very specialized education, but the majority of us? The actors, the journalists, bureaucrats, writers? Is it really necessary to attain higher education to have an ear for music, to feel music, to be able to interpret music in such a way as to evoke feelings in one's audience? The same can be asked about writers. What is it that one can learn in order to write compellingly? Thomas Mann never even finished high school. Can higher education provide one with what is needed to write the way Thomas Mann did? Can it teach one to understand the evolution that's happening in art and culture?

P and I agreed that the drive and reverence for titles is nothing but folly that leads nowhere. Lemme give you an example. So many folks are convinced that one needs a creative writing course in order to write a novel. I know many who thought that way. Not one of them wrote anything, and what's even worse - every single one left the course (offered by the university) with the following conviction: writing is black magic that only chosen can master. As a result of it the people who took the course gave up any plans for writing. Education that was to teach them to write had the opposite effect.

Is there any education helpful for writers? Doubtful. There is but one exception though: education that leads to life experiences that can be turned into works of art. Check out some of the writings by professionals, such as the emerge doc who wrote short stories dealing with working at a hospital (his name eludes me). And that is where the crux of the matter is: it is the experience of life that feeds the mind, is then processed, and turned into art.


Double agent Penkovsky prevented WWIII

They say that the defection of the GRU's colonel Oleg Penkovsky helped prevent the WWIII during the so called Caribbean missile crisis under JFK's presidency (see below).

In light of Bush's latest push for the annihilation of Russia, can we hope to be saved by a defector from the US military establishment? Or, are we doomed?
Double agent Penkovsky contributed to prevent WWIII
45 years ago at the height of the Caribbean crisis Soviet military intelligence (GRU) colonel, double agent Oleg Penkovsky was arrested, Moscow-based daily Moskovsky komsomolets (MK) writes today.
While the world in October, 1962 with trembling hearts followed the events in the Caribbean sea area, only a few people knew in the USA and Britain that the Soviet Union was not prepared for a decisive nuclear strike yet, MK notes. There was a huge disbalance of forces – 17:1 in favour of the United States, as concerns the nuclear arsenal, – and the Soviet missiles were hardly controllable and undependable. This confidence of the western politicians was based on the information, transferred by a major source – Alex, who was the GRU colonel Oleg Penkovsky. The Penkovsky case is considered to have been the most successful Cold War espionage operation.
Given the code name "Hero" by the CIA, Penkovsky provided an astonishing amount of information. According to investigation, only between April 1961 and autumn 1962, he delivered 111 rolls of film and spoke to debriefers for about 140 hours. The CIA needed a special team of 20 people to translate and analyze all the material; MI-6 had a team of 10 people on the project. Some of the documents Penkovsky provided eased fears that the West was on the short side of a missile gap with the Soviets; others helped the United States identify the Soviet missile buildup in Cuba and paved the way for President Kennedy's strong response to it.
According to an official Soviet version, widespread by the mass media after the open trial in Moscow, Penkovsky had sex affairs with many women, spent much of his time in pubs, "was a person of extremely limited interests, with the narrowest outlook, who did not show any interest neither about literature, nor about music and art, he did not read books". During the lawsuit his affiliation with the GRU was not revealed by the authorities.
MK says the real Penkovsky was far from the image presented by the Soviet propanda. He was born on April 23, 1919 in Vladikavkaz in an intelectual family. He lived a typical life for the Soviet person of his time: school, young communist league, artillery school in Kiev. In September, 1939 war began against Poland, in January 1940 – against Finland, in 1941-1945 – war against Hitler’s Germany. During this period, he received two awards of the Red Banner, order of Alexander Nevsky, an order of Patriotic War 1st degree, an order of the Red Star, eight medals. In 1953 in a rank of colonel he appeared in the GRU – in the directorate, engaged in activity concerning the Middle East countries. In 1955 his first business trip abroad as an assistant to the military attache in Ankara took place. According to investigation, it was then when Penkovsky had planned to come over to the enemy’s side, MK writes. However, Americans have counted the activity of the Soviet colonel as a KGB operation. Then in 1958 Penovsky found common ground with the British intelligence. They accepted his offer and involved also the Americans in the operation, and they successfully used his services.
According to the official version, Penkovsky’s collaboration with the foreign spy agencies was revealed by the agents of the 7th directorate of the KGB. At the end of 1961, while carrying out external surveillance of the wife of a British diplomat, her contact to unknown man was fixed. Nine months later he was arrested. This version has been in detail described in numerous publications. However, according to an independent version, MK expands, Penkovsky became a part of a game of the leadership of the USSR Ministry of Defence and growing anti-Khrushchev opposition in the Central Committee of the CPSU with an aim to idscredit Khruschev in the eyes of the western community. Avoiding the general failure, Penkovsky was presented as the unique participant of events, MK writes. Penkovsky was executed by a bullet in the head in 1963. His contact Grevil Winn was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. In a year he was exchanged for Soviet spy Gordon Launsdale.
Ivan Serov, head of the GRU, was degradated in his rank and dismissed. Most of Penovsky’s colleagues and acquinatances were transferred from Moscow to serve in distant garrisons.
A precise answer on the question who actually Penkovsky was – continues to remain secret stored in the GRU and FSB archives, MK marks.
However one thing is clear: partly owing to Penkovsky the world escaped doomsday, as the materials that he had transferred to the West, allowed the US President J.F. Kennedy to unravel Khruschev's plan and to prevent inception of the World War III, MK concludes.

Source: Axis


The sky yellow as brass

"The sky was yellow as brass" Erich Maria Remarque starts his Three Comrades (first sentence).



Summer exhaled its last breath. It's warm, so we decided to hike to this "lost" lake in the woods. To get there one must follow animal paths and use a GPS receiver. Hike in each direction took 3 hours. We found the lake. Tired, hot and thirsty we plunged into the warm shallow waters. We laughed and thought we knew what Champlain must have felt like - first white people to dip our feet in the pristine waters of an unnamed lake. Until something glistened just under the surface - a supermarket bag with four beer cans. Oh, well! Beer was nice and cold, so we drank it and went back home.

Supremacy challenged

More BS from our ideologues. Today an angry debate (oops - wrong word, because to have a debate one needs opposing views, so let's call it for what it is : rhetoric) on the radio: what to do about Russia's return to big politics and her drive to reclaim the superpower status, how to stop the tyranny from coming back?

Protecting the world from tyranny... Suuure. Only the tyrants, the enemy that will not stop before it enslaves us all is not what they want us to think. It is much closer...

Here's what John Dewey says:
"The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon The Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is also accordingly here - within ourselves and our institutions."

Dewey said it in 1939, just as the world was about to witness the cataclysm of WWII. The truth does not age. Today we can substitute the names of our own tyrants with those of the past and the rest will be... history in replay.


Dead ghost of the past

I am getting accustomed to the thought of translating my second novel. The offer to have it published in its translated version in a newspaper is the first step, a test if you will, before creating an original novel in that language. Lots of doubts. Is my knowledge of that language creative enough to meet readers' demands? Time will tell.

Meanwhile I am battling resistance to reading my novel in its original English. Why? I make it a point not not go back to a novel once finished. The moment I decide that, as an author I said all I had to say, the novel dies, it becomes a dead ghost of the past. I do not go back to it, it does not interest me; all I care about is to be rid of it.

What's behind it? I suspect that other authors may agree with me - a novel is never finished. You can write, and re-write, polish and correct for eternity, but if you want to be published, at some point you have to say - enough.

Authors, like most people continuously evolve. There is a serious danger that a novel considered as 'finished', some time later may cause serious creative indigestion. If I were to go back to an already finished novel, after years of creative and personal development, I would likely write it differently, if at all.

What happens if I go back to the novel I finished over a year ago, a novel I consider ready for publication. Will I be tempted to change it? Perhaps it is an opportunity to give the translated version its own life?


Writer's dark Self

Today I was struck by this realization: I haven't smiled in ages.

I know the reason. It's the novel I am writing. But, it isn't just the subject, however serious it may be. It's the intensity with which I approach writing of this particular work.

I am constantly drunk, and not from the wine that accompanies my writing, but from the intense attention I devote to writing. My head spins, I can't find interest in anything but the novel. Every thing else is unimportant. When something gets in the way of writing I get extremely irritated, be it household chores, the meal times, the need to remain civil to family members, and so on. You can probably tell my state of mind from the angry posts I wrote here about the evil that permeates the world.

Yeah, I do not smile. I do not find humor around me or within me. I prefer solitude. I am turning into one of them crabby, anti-social, reclusive writers.

And then I read the following from Jung:
The dark side of the Self is the most dangerous thing of all, precisely because the Self is the greatest power in the psyche. It can cause people to 'spin' megalomanic or other delusory fantasies that catch them up and 'possess' them. A person in this state thinks with mounting excitement that he has grasped and solved the great cosmic riddles; he therefore loses all touch with human reality. A reliable symptom of this condition is the loss of one's sense of humor and of human contacts.


FBI is the Gestapo

Well, it seems J. Edgar Hoover's prophecy has come true.

Based on recommendation from the FBI a Canadian citizen Maher Arar has been rendered to Syria for torture. Later Arar has been found not guilty of terrorism charges, awarded millions in damages and a court order released documents which show that the FBI insisted on torturing Arar.

What is the significance of the finding?

J. Edgar Hoover warned:
"We are a fact-gathering organization only. We don't clear anybody. We don't condemn anybody. Just the minute the FBI begins making recommendations on what should be done with its information, it becomes a Gestapo."


Worst part of writing a novel

Some writers say the hardest part of writing a novel is starting it.

Not for me.

I do not start until the words, the plot, the characters, all that amounts to a book begins to spill over and cannot be contained.

Starting is easy: I have no choice but to write, I cannot stop it, and so it goes - first draft, second, third and so on. Then comes the point when the creative work is over. At that point I find that all I do is the technical, the polishing, the mundane. That's when I get tired of the novel. That's when I just want to throw it to hell, or I wish it was a team work - one person for the creative part and another to polish it, to bring it to that publishable state.

I think my second novel could use that extra once over, my editor seems to agree, but I am just so tired of it. I don't want to go back to it. I should. I will, but not until the current (3rd) novel is finished.

I have two mundane tasks ahead of me: polishing Novel Nr 2 and Novel Nr 3.



Who REALLY wrote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?

I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, but E, who read each book 2 or 3 times and in at least 2 languages says that the last book (7th, is it?) is so unsatisfying that she thinks she might have purchased a fake copy...

She went to the bookstore to find out (after having heard on the radio that the novel should be 764 pages long while hers is 670 or thereabouts.)

All books in the bookstore were the same and this got E to think that:

  • perhaps this was just a joke to get everybody talking and the REAL edition of the 7th Harry Potter is still coming


  • perhaps the book was not written by JK Rowling at all... E says it did not have the depth of the previous books and it did not add anything new.

Now, E wants to know: Who REALLY wrote the last installment of Harry Potter?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Reading Harry Potter at sunset

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Places to find your own book

I like an occasional trip to Goodwill. Sometimes you can find real gems on their bookshelves. I can't tell you how many out of print books I've purchased from Goodwill over the years, but the line up is long and often fascinating.

So imagine my surprise when I walked in today and the first book that caught my eye was my own. Yep, my first novel (published 2004) finally made it to Goodwill.  Of course I've seen my books in many different places such as grocery stores, airports, pharmacies, hotels, bookstores and libraries but Goodwill is definitely the first find for me.

Not sure what it means for me as a writer, particularly that the book seems as crisp as new, never read, but I can definitely boast of being one of those writers whose books end up at Goodwill.
Oh, and by the way: I bought it.


How I quit coffee

From addiction to freedom.
If you quit ingesting coffee 'cold turkey', your brain begins to reduce the number of receptors right away. But the process takes about two weeks, and during that time your body sends out mild 'distress signals' in the form of headaches, lethargy, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, and sometimes even stiffness and flu-like symptoms. As a result most doctors recommend cutting out caffeine gradually.

Well, gradual attempts at quitting coffee did not work for me. Each time I tried - I suffered the horrors described above.

I used to drink 10+ cups a day (no sugar or milk). The more I drank the more I needed to drink. I reached the stage where it would no longer work: more coffee meant more down times. I'd drink a cup, feel the rush for half an hour and I'd hit a mental fog, and need another one. It really was a vicious circle.

I tried to quit. I tried not to drink any coffee but it just would not do. I tried reducing the amount, but it would not do. Like a smoker I tried for years to quit.

In vain I struggled. It would not do.

Until pure chance came to the rescue.

I was traveling in remote areas of Central America, with no access to reliable drinking water. I could not trust bars, I certainly could not trust tap water to boil my own...

The first few days were terrible, the rejection process was really hard.

By the end of the 3 week trip I forgot what coffee was. I never looked back. It's been over 2 years and I don't care for coffee. My head works clearly without it. I do not suffer from the afternoon downtime. I do not need the caffeine boost. I'm free.

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Who killed JFK

In today's Washington Post:

The "evidence used to rule out a second assassin is fundamentally flawed," concludes a new article in the Annals of Applied Statistics written by former FBI lab metallurgist William A. Tobin and Texas A&M University researchers Cliff Spiegelman and William D. James.

You know the day is coming when the file on JFK assassination is supposed to be open?

You know what's in it?

I quote what I've been told by an old-timer from the spy world, an intel officer from the WWII and beyond:

"You know what they will find when they open the file on JFK? Nothing. There will be nothing in it."

Remember this.


Frightening facts about GM foods

Remember when the European Union put up a fight against Canadian genetically modified canola exports but lost its case with the WTO and was ordered to accept the frankencrops anyway?

Well, it seems Euro governments are more frank about the dangers of GM foods than their North American counterparts.

Read about the dangers of GM crops from Responsible Technology:


Sample quote:

"Foreign genes jumped to human gut bacteria in just one meal of a GM soy burger and soy milkshake."



Instant Novelist

A small software company CreativeVein has released un updated version of its flagship package: "PoeticVein", version 2.01.

The software allows would be novelists to instantly create novel-length stories of publishable quality.

How does the software work?

Simply ingenious.

The user fills out a form that is as detailed as one wants it to be and may take several days to go through. It is possible to complete the form over a weekend! Imagine this: write a novel in a single weekend.

Questions range from choice of genre, goriness, and pace to locales, names, and language intricacy... and thousands more.

The more details the user provides the more detailed and rich the final output.

For example, under Mystery as the chosen genre one can choose the number of characters, how detailed should their bios be (and what should be included), how many murder victims, how many twists in the story, how long the story needs to be (differs from publisher to publisher) etc. Admittedly, the more you enter the more background you may need to provide, and you may spend a week filling the form. But, you can choose the Simplify or Random function.

Does it work?

Well, if you keep in mind that all Mystery / Suspense / Thriller books are stereotypical to some degree (and they are) then the output is extremely gratifying. You will not be able to distinguishe a generated novel from that written by a writer.

A 95,000 word novel takes only minutes to generate, but as said before it does take several days to fill out the particulars. Would be novelists are encouraged to read through the generated work before submitting to publishers in order to ensure satisfaction. I second that: some editing will be required. But, hey, it is nothing compared with 2 years you'd spend writing a novel by yourself.

Then, you may want to consider this: Love to read books but are tired of books you don't enjoy? Fill out the form and one will be created for you. You can have as many alternative endings as you wish. You can have as many stories in all imaginable genres as you wish.

Now, the software isn't cheap at $899.00 US, but think how many novels you can create. Novels for life.

My first novel was generated by the "PoeticVein" version 1.01 and was snatched by the publisher. Can you tell it was generated?


Operation Condor

The School of the Americas, a terrorist-training ground based in Fort Benning, is the proud alma mater for tens of thousands of assassins / human rights violators.

SOA's graduates killed and tortured thousands throughout Latin America. Among the long list of victims were priests, social activists, women and children...

Most of the murderers walk free, many enjoy immunity granted by the various oppressive regimes, some live in luxurious retirement in the USA.

Seeking justice for the victims proves to be a challenge, year after year.

So, an attorney from Uruguay figured there's got to be a better way than going after every single trigger pusher.

He figured that going after the top honcho, the architect of campaigns of torture and mass murder should yield results.

He requested the extradition of Henry Kissinger...

Read here


Literary Agent representing thrillers, suspense, espionage and mystery

Jake Elwell, formerly of Wieser and Elwell, moved to Harold Ober Literary Agency.

This makes Harold Ober yet another agency representing thrillers / mystery / suspense / espionage. (CLICK TO SEE HUNDREDS MORE)

Sometimes you only get one chance, so be VERY careful before you approach an agent or an editor, do not make the same mistakes I made when I tried to publish my first novel. Learn from my mistakes and become a published author!



El Señor de la Conquista in San Miguel Allende

Just a quick note that I am still alive. Been traveling off the beaten track - it may be hard to believe there are places in the world without any electricity, little else Internet access. I'm taking advantage of a short stop over in San Miguel de Allende to log in.

We are lucky to hit the El Señor de la Conquista festivities. Here's how it goes: every dancer creates his / her own costume, different costume every year. And, for every year of taking part in the dancing dancers earn 15 new feathers...

El Señor de la Conquista

San Miguel de Allende, March 2

El Señor de la Conquista - SMA


Red Bishop

Today is the birthday (b. 1909) of one of the leading figures in Liberation Theology and social justice.

Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara was a catholic archbishop in Brazil. Nicknamed: "Red Bishop".

He was instrumental in delineating the course of Liberation Theology, a premise for my latest novel.

To cut to the chase let me post some quotes from the colorful Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara:

“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.”

“I will never carry a weapon and will never kill anyone. But I am ready to give life for the poor.”

“The greatest problem of the Church is not a lack of priests, rather the hunger faced by the people.”


Home made walnut liquor

Today we opened the first bottle of walnut liquor we made in July last year.

Wow! This is easily one of the best alcohols I've tasted in a long time.

It is said that walnut liquor is a miracle cure for heartburn and stomach pains caused by heavy meals. It was used for such medicinal purposes in ancient Poland.

Here's how we made it:

  1. 5 walnuts (must be still soft - before they ripen and turn hard)

  2. 1L of good quality vodka (45%)

  3. 1 tsp of sugar (optional)

  • Add finely sliced walnuts to vodka. Cork and place aside in a dark place for about 5 weeks.

  • You will notice that alcohol changed color to brown or dark brown.

  • Pour alcohol through cheesecloth (or a paper coffee filter) to a separate bottle and cork it, leaving behind just enough to keep walnuts covered.

  • Sprinkle walnuts with sugar and set aside for about 3 weeks. The result will be sweet syrup. Pour it through cheesecloth (or a paper coffee filter) to previously placed aside alcohol and stir.

  • If color is very dark, add more alcohol until it turns nice amber (tastes better.)

  • Cork and place in a dark place for 6 months or more. They say 1 year walnut liquor is best - I'll let you know when my second bottle is opened.



Rejection, rejection, rejection...

Recently, several writers asked me for some tricks or miracle ways that would help them find a literary agent and to publish their first novels. Each one of them already received upwards of 100 rejections to query letters.

There's good news and there's bad news.

The good: you've received only 100 rejections.

The bad: expect more.

Sadly, that is the reality of the post 1990s publishing market consolidation: a handful of key people where there was plenty.

Folks, you do not need an agent to get published (my example proves it), but it is becoming a Catch 22: more and more publishers will not accept anything from writers directly - submissions and queries must come from known literary agencies.

Trouble is... agents consider writers their worst enemy. Why? Because majority of writers do not make enough money to make the effort of selling their works worth while. What an agent wants is a Tom Clancy, someone who manufactures mega sellers so they can sit back and cash in cheques for nothing.

Imagine this scenario: an employer calls you and offers you a job - basically to cash in a cheque. What do you do?

Now look at it this way: you (the employer) offer a literary agent to sell your book and receive a cut from sale. What is an agent's reply? Some will send a bitchy reply to never-ever bother them again. Many will blacklist your IP / email address. Majority will ignore you (it makes no difference whether you query by email or snail mail, except that you will save money by emailing because despite assurances that all mail is responded to if an SASE is included - it is simply not so.)

Folks, there is no miracle way. Query, query, query... When an agent does not reply or when you receive a rejection without any explanation (95% of rejections) and you can't figure out why :

  1. re-send you query again after some weeks

  2. try another person from the same company

  3. change your subject line

  4. re-write your query / synopsis - concentrate on different aspects of your novel (make it sound more gory, or sexy, or political, or controversial, or change the genre it falls under...)

Finally, if you are only considering sending out your first query letters let me give you this advice: expect to receive rejections. Trust me, it will be that much easier to bear when you know they will be coming. They will be coming.

Start emailing literary agencies or publishers


Iza Garztecka - Agencja Literacka Helfa - to złodziej i oszustka.

Osobom poszukującym Agencji Literackiej przyda się to ostrzeżenie (WARNING):

Iza Garztecka - Agencja Literacka Helfa - to złodziej i oszustka.

Garztecka sprzedała moją powieść wydawnictwu. W pażdzierniku 2005 roku otrzymała z wydawnictwa zaliczkę za moją powieść. Z zaliczki miała sobie potrącić swoją 10% dolę a resztę przesłać do mnie. Zamiast tego, przez 14 miesięcy okłamywała mnie, że jakoby wydawca nie zapłacił, ale że stale naciskała, i że już... że wkrótce... że na pewno uzyska wypłatę zaliczki. Aż wreszcie wyparowała razem z pieniędzmi - zamknęła interes.

Nie jestem jedynym okradzionym przez Garztecką - patrz komentarz do mojej angielskiej notki. Andrew Lownie informuje, że syn Garzteckiej otwiera agencję literacką. Proceder będzie kwitł...

Adresy, którymi posługiwała / posługuje się ta oszustka:

Agencja Literacka Helfa

Halina Jabłonowska-Garztecka / Iza Garztecka

(Helfa Literary Agency)
Aleje Jerozolimskie 198f m 5
02-486 Warszawa
Aleje Jerozolimskie 195 m 5
02-486 Warsaw
Zielna 45/90
01-108 Warszawa
Grójecka 28/30 m.23
02-308 Warszawa

+48 (22) 620 55 15

+48 (22) 817 35 50

komórka: +48 509 464 787

Helfa Literary Agency is a thief and a cheat

Something disappointing happened to me today:
I learned that my European agent is a thief and a liar.

Iza Garztecka, proprietor of Helfa Literary Agency, sold translation rights to my novel to a Polish publisher.

In October 2005 she took the money on my behalf and lied for over a year that Publisher did not pay.

Then she closed shop, even went so far as sending me information through a third person saying that she died... along with all her debts. It was, of course, a lie.

Iza Garztecka robbed me. She is a thief.
Contact me if you are an author, agent or a publisher and want more information or have been robbed by her too.

Be aware of this cheat.

Addresses this agency was/is using:

Helfa Literary Agency
Agencja Literacka Helfa
Halina Jablonowska-Garztecka (Iza Garztecka)
Aleje Jerozolimskie 198f m 5
02-486 Warszawa
Aleje Jerozolimskie 195 m 5
02-486 Warsaw , Poland
Zielna 45/90
01-108 Warszawa, Poland
Grojecka 28/30 m.23
02-308 Warszawa, Poland
Telephone numbers:

+48 (22) 620 55 15

+48 (22) 817 35 50

cell phone: +48 509 464 787