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.