Who Visits My Blog — Bertram’s Blog

Someone asked me yesterday if anyone reads my blog. She seemed shocked when I told her people all around the world have visited this blog. Most come from the USA and other English speaking countries. Others come from countries I’ve never even heard of, and yet, someone in those countries has heard of me. What […]

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Who Visits My Blog — Bertram’s Blog

Treasured Belongings Of Famed American Writer Gore Vidal Set For September Auction

People are always sending me stuff to post on my blog. Usually it has nothing to do with books or authors, but this particular press release caught my attention. The following is fun to read, anyway, and to dream of one day writing an iconic book.

Hundreds of items from the estate of the late American author Gore Vidal, including selections from his personal library, choice correspondence and literary awards, will be auctioned on Sept. 18 by Abell Auction Company in Los Angeles.

A true man of letters, Vidal’s works of historical fiction, essays and political commentaries represent some of this century’s most famous works. The extensive sale will feature items ranging in value from approximately $400 to $10,000 from the former homes of Vidal and his partner Howard Austen: a villa called “La Rondinaia” in the resort town of Ravello, Italy and Mediterranean style home in the Outpost Estates neighborhood of Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. Both properties were featured in design magazines such as Architectural Digest and also frequented by royalty, Broadway and Hollywood writers and actors, important literary figures and politicians.

image001The live and online sale will start at 10 a.m. PST and include items notable to art and antique collectors such as an Italian Baroque giltwood and marble console; a porphyry marble table top; a Flemish Verdure tapestry; a pair of Italian Baroque painted and parcel gilt torchieres; an Italian walnut commode and secretaire; a Victorian walnut partner’s desk; a set of four Italian painted overdoors; a collection of Old Master paintings and drawings; a Roman marble funerary urn and Asian artifacts.

For those interested in unique personal effects and memorabilia, standout items include Vidal’s personal image002library of first edition works under his name and pseudonyms; awards and recognitions, including his elite “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” medallion for contributions to the arts in France; a typed note from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams; a letterman’s jacket from the animated comedy “The Simpsons”; and much more.

Vidal died in 2012 at age 86 and is remembered as one of America’s most prolific and versatile writers. Among his most famous works are “Lincoln,” “Myra Breckinridge” and “The City and the Pillar.” A member of an illustrious political family, he was the grandson of a U.S. Senator and twice ran unsuccessfully for public office. His mother’s second husband was the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy.

An auction preview will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Sept. 14 to 17 at the Abell gallery, 2613 Yates Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call 323.724.8102 or visit www.abell.com, where a complete catalogue will be posted on Sept. 2.

Auction Details
Live and online auction:  Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.
Onsite preview: Sept. 14 to 17, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Abell Auction Co., 2613 Yates Ave., Los Angeles (free valet parking)
For more information: www.abell.com or 323.724.8102


Excerpt From PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT by Lazarus Barnhill

Pastor Larsen and the RatReverend Martin Luther Larsen—highly regarded, completely ethical, genuine and sincere—has dedicated his life to the pastorate. Now, in the face of the drudgery, church politics and frustration that are the usual professional hazards of the ministry, a dangerous and intriguing complication has slipped into his life: Ange. No one in Larsen’s close knit congregations knew of the existence of this woman, the daughter of a parishioner who appeared just in time for her mother’s funeral. For Larsen, Ange is more than mysterious. She is alluring, wise and astonishingly intuitive. . . . And then there is the issue of the large rat that seems to be taunting the members of his church.


She had answered the door shoeless, wearing a close-fitting black dress and no makeup. Her black hair was just long enough to bounce when she let him in the front door and immediately turned toward the kitchen table, where packets of documents and possessions were stacked. He assumed she was going to hand him the items she had promised him at the funeral and bid him farewell, until he saw the magnum of red wine and the two glasses beside it. First he thought he would have to turn down the offered drink, and then he wondered if perhaps he should not have assumed. Perhaps she was expecting other company. She sat down in one of the two chairs at the table and crossed her bare legs.

“Can you sit down for a minute? It was nice of you to come all the way out here to pick these things up, Pastor Larsen,” she said.

He pulled out the chair and sat down. The daughter sat in the one he had always used in past visits. It was strange to him to sit in the chair Joan Celeste sat in when he visited her, where she graciously offered him crumb cake and lemonade.

“I came out here to Alton a lot, actually. Your mother was very dear to me. That is, she was just as nice and hospitable as she could be. And I always really appreciated that. I enjoyed coming to visit her.” He smiled. “Of course you mother very faithfully showed up every Sunday. It’s a long way from Alton to Manchester. But she never missed. When someone comes that far every week, you want to show your appreciation.”

Ange Celeste stared at him. It was a bit disconcerting to Larsen. Did she not believe that he visited often, or did she doubt his sentiments? Did she—perhaps cynical about church life or even an outright disbeliever—look down on the sort of pastoral relationship he described? The unexpected or incomprehensible reactions of extremely attractive women had always troubled him, made him feel like an unappealing buffoon.

“She liked you.”

Her words and the way she spoke them surprised him. It was almost like a pronouncement or a verdict Joan had handed down for her daughter to share with Larsen in her absence. And there was something about the tone she used. It was wiser and perhaps more intimate than he expected.

“Well. I liked her.”

“She told me about conning you into going to the fall festival here in Alton. And on a Saturday, no less. And she told me about your favorite wine.”

Without asking, she turned and grasped the magnum in two hands. Larsen’s mouth dropped. He stammered, started to protest that he was working, had other appointments to keep that Friday afternoon and could not drink. The daughter paid no attention to him, though, as she poured the glasses full.

“A nice Nebbiolo from Verità Wino, your favorite Italian winery.”

“. . . I really shouldn’t.”

She had anticipated his reluctance and brushed it aside. “One glass, Pastor Larsen. Only 12% alcohol. Undetectable.” She picked up the glasses and handed one to him. “A toast to my mother, the divine Joan Celeste.”

He laughed, somewhat anxiously, as they touched their glasses. “To Joan.”

The wine was as he remembered it: rosy and slightly tart with a lingering mellow aftertaste. And with the first taste he felt himself begin to relax. The second and third sips did not disappoint.

“I did not know Verità Wino produced a magnum size of their Nebbiolo.”

She looked at the bottle, as if seeing it for the first time. “Well I guess they do.” She smiled at him. “Mother said it was ironic that you liked this wine.”

He gazed at her. “Seriously? Why did she say that?”

“Because you are so much like it.”


“The Nebbiolo grape takes an exceptionally long time from the moment it blooms until it’s ready to pluck.” She smiled. “And once you do skin it and start the fermentation process, it takes a very long time before . . . it’s ready for the bottle.”

He stared at her oval face, cream-colored complexion, dark almond eyes, pert nose and small mouth. She bore only the faintest resemblance to her mother, whom he had only known in her 70’s. How old was this daughter? Forty perhaps, at most? Was she a late-life child?

“What does that have to do with me?”

She had finished her glass and poured another. “I guess Mother thought you were a work-in-progress.” She grabbed his glass in his hand and steadied it as she brought the neck of the magnum onto the lip and filled it again.

“No thanks. . . . Uh. What did your mother mean, that I’m a ‘work-in-progress?’ Was I not the pastor she needed me to be?”

“I seriously doubt that, Pastor Larsen. . . . Sounds like you worry about that kind of thing though.” She took another drink.

He thought about it. “Every pastor worth his salt wants to be the shepherd his—or her—congregation needs.”

“How politically correct of you.”

He laughed. “Heaven knows I try, Ms. Celeste.”



“No. Say it right. It’s pronounced ‘auhnjj.’ It’s French.”


“That’s right.”

“Well, Ange, I take it you don’t have a great deal of use for church life and customs.”

Her head tipped to one side. “I don’t do religion the way my mother did. That doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual.”



Lazarus Barnhill’s titles appear in several Indigo Sea Press genres. Among his first novels to be published was the police procedural The Medicine People. Later, co-authored with Sally Jones, he released Come Home to Me Child. His work is characterized by the unexpected twist and turn, by crisp dialogue and unpredictable endings.

Only $.99 on Kindle today! https://www.amazon.com/Pastor-Larsen-Rat-Lazarus-Barnhill-ebook/dp/B01GGIKF4A

Excerpt from Rotten Peaches (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) by Mitzi Szereto with Teddy Tedaloo

downloadBook blurb:

“Animal Dwarf Bandits” with Tommy Guns are on a crime spree in Georgia!

Dillinger-style bank heists are being committed by a dangerous gang of little people wearing animal masks. Enter ursine photojournalist Thelonious T. Bear. Still smarting from his misadventures in Norfolk, he’s eager to begin his assignment in the American South. However, Thelonious soon learns that the South isn’t all fried chicken and sweet tea. In between encounters with a trigger-happy farmer and a fire-and-brimstone preacher with a snake, he’s stalked by a man in a red pickup truck and nearly bear-napped by a family of hillbillies. Thelonious’s resemblance to one of the bank bandits puts him on the radar of Sheriff Maynard Grizzle and budding reporter Nate Jessop, both of whom are convinced he’s in the gang. As the robberies gain more media attention, locals smell fame in the air. Suddenly everyone wants in on the action. And Thelonious finds himself at the heart of yet another series of crimes!

From bestselling author Mitzi Szereto, co-authored with her celebrity sidekick bear Teddy Tedaloo. Be sure to read Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles), the first in the series!


By late afternoon a tired and hungry Thelonious was ready to pack it in for the day—until he saw the ruined timber barn. It was set well back from the road in a field so long untended it actually seemed to consume the structure. An oak tree had fallen onto the roof, causing it to collapse. The tree was thriving and had even become part of the barn, feeding new life into something left to die. Parking at the edge of what once had been a driveway, Thelonious got out of the Mini. He stood for a moment perusing the site. Slinging his camera bag over one shoulder, he trundled forth into the overgrown field. A No Trespassing sign lay on the ground, covered over with weedy detritus. It was still attached to a chain that had fallen down between two rotted posts. He passed right by, never seeing it.

Thelonious photographed the barn from various angles, changing lenses as he saw fit. Although the weight of his camera bag was a nuisance, he dared not set it down for fear it would be swallowed by the overgrowth. Approaching the barn’s entrance, he noticed several bales of hay inside that had been left there to rot. Rust-covered farm implements lay scattered about both inside and out. He included them in some of the images, since they lent extra character to the scene. He even captured a triangle of sunlight coming through the barn’s collapsed roof as it returned the mouldering hay to its original golden splendour, zooming in when a mouse poked its head out to feel the sunshine on its whiskers. The light shifted and changed hue, adding shadow, depth and richness to his compositions. Had Thelonious’s attention not been caught by a ramshackle assemblage of containers off to one side, he might’ve seen the figure skulking in the shadows behind him.

A rusty metal cylinder with a triangular-shaped lid had been set up in a corner of the barn. An encrusted pipe had been attached to the top, the elbow joint bending it sideways connecting it to a worm-eaten wooden barrel; its remaining iron bands had turned green with corrosion. Glass jugs and jam jars lay strewn about on the dirt floor. Some looked as if they had mouse droppings on them. Thelonious’s nostrils detected the odour of fermenting grains. It appeared that he’d stumbled upon a moonshine still.

As Thelonious framed it in his viewfinder, he heard a loud explosion. A bullet whistled past his right ear, nearly taking his deerstalker hat with it.

“Hold it right thare!”

A wiry old man with a shotgun stepped out from the shadows. He planted himself solidly behind Thelonious. A long scraggly beard hung from his chin; it would’ve been white if not for the dribbles of tobacco juice. Thelonious was pretty sure he saw things moving in it.

The ancient codger aimed the firearm at Thelonious’s chest, the brown sticks of his arms surprisingly steady as they stuck out from his tattered bib overalls. “This here’s private property!” he shouted.

Thelonious took a few steps back, feeling his bowels loosening. “I thought the barn was abandoned?” he croaked.

“Abandoned?” The old man spat into the dirt. “This here barn ain’t abandoned!”

“I must’ve made a mistake.”

“Ah’ll say y’all made a mistake! This here’s my farm!”


“Hmmph…” The farmer squinted hard at his intruder, his creased face like a dried plum above the beard.

Thelonious shifted the camera bag to his other shoulder. “I’ll just be on my way then.”

But the farmer had other ideas. He moved nearer, closing the gap between them. “Did that no ’count Bobby Ray Tuggle send y’all down here to steal my corn liquor?”

“No!” Thelonious shook his head until he thought it would fall off. The cosy relationship between the old man’s index finger and the shotgun’s trigger was making him nervous.

“Y’all don’t know Bobby Ray?”

“I don’t know anyone!”

“Okay. If’n y’all say so.”

Hoping this was the end of it, Thelonious turned to go.

“Not so dang fast! Didn’t y’all see my ‘no trespassing’ sign?”

“What ‘no trespassing’ sign?”

“Y’all walked right on past it. It’s thare, plain as day!” A skeletal brown finger pointed toward the barn’s gaping entrance. “C’aint miss it!”

“But I didn’t see any sign!”

“Ah shoot trespassers.” The farmer gave Thelonious a grisly brown grin. “Shot me one last year. He’s buried out back of the barn. Wanna see?”


Author bios:

Mitzi Szereto (mitziszereto.com) is an author and anthology editor of multi-genre fiction and non-fiction. She has her own blog Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog (mitziszereto.com/blog), and a web TV channel Mitzi TV (mitziszereto.com/tv), which covers the “quirky” side of London. Her books include Love, Lust and Zombies; Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance; The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray; Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles); Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire; Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts; Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance; In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales; Getting Even: Revenge Stories; Dying For It: Tales of Sex and Death; Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers; and Silk Sheets: Collected Stories of Mitzi Szereto.

Teddy Tedaloo is an author, celebrity teddy bear and the publisher and editor of The Teddy Tedaloo Times. He’s also a trendsetter, world traveller, and the production assistant extraordinaire/co-star of the web TV channel Mitzi TV. Popular in social media circles such as Facebook and Twitter, he’s known for his entertaining commentary and opinions as well as being an advocate for animal welfare. He lives (and goes) wherever Mitzi lives (and goes). He’s the co-author of Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles). Rotten Peaches (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) is his second novel in the series.


Available for Kindle, Nook and Kobo e-readers and in trade paperback (Sept. 2015)

Author website: http://mitziszereto.com
Book website: http://mitziszereto.com/rottenpeaches
Mitzi Szereto on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mitziszereto
Teddy Tedaloo on Twitter: https://twitter.com/teddytedaloo
Mitzi Szereto on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mitziszereto.fanpage
Teddy Tedaloo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teddytedaloo.fanpage

Buy links:
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Rotten-Peaches-Thelonious-Bear-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00XTH3SHS/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rotten-Peaches-Thelonious-Bear-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00XTH3SHS/
Amazon Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Rotten-Peaches-Thelonious-Bear-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00XTH3SHS/
Amazon Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Rotten-Peaches-Thelonious-Bear-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00XTH3SHS/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rotten-peaches-mitzi-szereto/1122563223?ean=2940151033503
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/rotten-peaches-the-thelonious-t-bear-chronicles

Book Review for ACQUIESCENCE by Velya Jancz-Urban

Title: Acquiescence
Author: Velya Jancz-Urban
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing
Genre: Paranormal
ISBN: 978-1630661021

by Velya Jancz-Urban

Book review by Carole J. Howard

The historical information in this book is mesmerizing. Other elements of the book are, too, but it was the history that was uniquely fascinating. What a clever plot device (no spoilers!) to integrate the history and to keep it relevant. I’m not ordinarily drawn to this genre (I can’t say why because it would involve a spoiler), but I’m so glad I dug in. And the way she ties it all together at the end is great. If only history had been this interesting in school.”


carolehowardAfter a career in which her writing largely consisted of training manuals and memos, in which clarity was the holy grail, Carole is thrilled to be writing fiction and memoir.  She lives in the beautiful and rural Hudson Valley of New York with her husband, and with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren just down the road apiece.

Carole gets around, having been to about 50 countries (so far), including eighteen months spent in Senegal, the setting for her novel Deadly Adagio, while her husband was a Peace Corps Administrator. She has also been in several amateur orchestras, which is territory that, like a country, has its own language, customs, government, hierarchy, and sub-groups.

Book Review for ACQUIESCENCE by Velya Jancz-Urban

Title: Acquiescence
Author: Velya Jancz-Urban
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing
Genre: Paranormal
ISBN: 978-1630661021

by Velya Jancz-Urban

Book review by Susan Emmerich

Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, and don’t believe that those who have passed on are still with us, you will be touched by the power of Velya Jancz-Urban’s Acquiescence. In her incredibly well researched novel, Jancz-Urban takes the reader on a journey that suspends belief as it explores betrayal, forgiveness, and acceptance. With my own connection to spirits, with my love of cemeteries, I identified closely with the characters and the story. I found myself regularly checking to make sure this was a work of fiction as the book read as both drama and a memoir, with the main character, Pamina, exposing intensely personal struggles and insights. Her wisdom is evident in passages like: “…Even when you heal, you’re never what you before. You can’t go back. You can’t change the past. It just is.” While Pamina’s family is the focus of the book, it is their experience with the spirit Susannah that guides their path to establishing a fresh beginning. This meshing of the past, present, and future is what makes Acquiescence a compelling read.


Susan Emmerich is not a writer by training and discovered her love of words late in life.  In her first career as a licensed social worker, she worked in the areas of family violence and adoption.  When her own daughter became school age she made the leap to school guidance to take full advantage of snow days!

While having coped with multiple losses in her life, Susan did not really take notice of their collective impact until her first menopausal mood swing.  It was then that she found writing and biking to be the best medicine for a wounded soul.  She currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio and is still discovering miles of new bike trails.

Susan is the author of A Girl on a Bike: Musings on Life, Loss, and Hot Flashes. 

Book Review for THE NINETY-NINTH REUNION by Dene Hellman

Title: The Ninety-Ninth Reunion
Author: Dene Hellman
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing
Genre: Mainstream
ISBN: 978 1938101922

Ninety-Ninth Reunion
by Dene Hellman

Book review by Maribeth Shanley

I totally enjoyed this book!  I found Maggie’s quirkiness and sarcasm endearing.  Lee, a former victim of bullying before it was called that, turned out to be a formidable woman who knew what she wanted and had earned being happy.  Ben, a very decent Midwesterner, was very unassuming.  Then there’s Caroline!  My husband was born and raised in Iowa.  Fortunately, we never spent much time going back to his hometown.  Now that I’ve read The Ninety-Ninth Reunion, I’m glad we didn’t.  This book gave me the willies on what I may have encountered.  I’m also now very thankful I’ve never made the effort to go to a high-school reunion.  Those were never my favorite years; and, now, I’ll gladly let that sleeping dog lie.  The Ninety-Ninth Reunion…good to the last drop!


MaribethMaribeth Shanley lives in Myrtle Beach, SC with her husband Bob Bibb.  They have three furry and three feathered children.  Maribeth is now retired from McCormick and Co., Inc. of the famous spice brand.  Once retired she decided to try her hand at writing.  “I’ve always loved to write and dreamed of becoming a writer.  Never did I imagine, however, it would actually happen.” Shanley is the author of the novel Crack in the World, which is based on her own experiences as a sexually abused child.



Book Review for CRACK IN THE WORLD by Maribeth Shanley

Title: Crack in the World
Author: Maribeth Shanley
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing, LLC
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-1630661014


Crack in the World
by Maribeth Shanley

Book review by Susan Emmerich

I picked up Maribeth Shanley’s novel, Crack in the World, with a bit of dread. As a former social worker, dealing with issues of sexual assault and domestic violence had been a daily task for me for a quarter century, and I was not looking forward to recalling decades of horror told by clients. I was pleasantly surprised that Ms. Shanley focused more on the emotional fall out from abuse, rather than the details. She accurately describes the family pain resulting from sexual abuse, without ever losing sight of the strength of her main character, Emily. The reader can’t help but rejoice in Emily’s triumph.
Yet, I found myself cheering equally hard for Emily’s mother, Sarah. It is through her eyes that we really come to know the depth of the damage, the layers of hurt. In her descriptive style, Ms. Shanley is able to draw the reader into understanding the thoughts, fears, frustrations, and sadness that often go unsaid in families impacted by the ultimate betrayal. 

If you are looking for a feel good tale of love and support, you will find it woven among the complications of human pain and lost innocence. You will be reminded that wounds can be healed with kindness and honesty, even if they never quite disappear. Crack in the World is accurate, raw, and honest. Anyone impacted by abuse will benefit from reading Ms. Shanley’s insightful novel.
 Susan Emmerich is not a writer by training and discovered her love of words late in life.  In her first career as a licensed social worker, she worked in the areas of family violence and adoption.  When her own daughter became school age she made the leap to school guidance to take full advantage of snow days!

While having coped with multiple losses in her life, Susan did not really take notice of their collective impact until her first menopausal mood swing.  It was then that she found writing and biking to be the best medicine for a wounded soul.  She currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio and is still discovering miles of new bike trails.

Susan is the author of A Girl on a Bike: Musings on Life, Loss, and Hot Flashes.


In this remarkable spiritual memoir, written by one of the most astonishing and enigmatic mystics of the modern era, Nosirrah takes us through the arc of his life from his birth, which he claims never actually happened, to his own death, amazingly described by Nosirrah himself in great detail. He recounts the rollicking events that occurred as this spiritual genius encountered the unfolding of his life and his message for humankind. Scholars will no doubt study this tome to help explain the brilliant writings of a man who so transcended his own existence that he was unable to authorize his own autobiography.

Learn more or purchase at http://sentientpublications.com/shop/all-titles/practical-obsession/.


I had to be enlightened early because I had a hard time following normal procedures, not because I was rebellious, but because I was often confused by the instructions that seem to keep coming at me. Like when I try to call into one of those big companies and the computer answering system says, “Do you want to talk to the billing department, say Yes or No” and I say “Yes or No” and the computer person says, “I didn’t understand, please say Yes or No” and so I say “Yes or No” and this goes on for hours without much progress. I learned after some experience to start out hitting 2 and then at least I could practice my Spanish. After a while I went for the hearing impaired option, but while I tried to be sensitive to the operator’s impairment, she kept saying, “Stop shouting!” I said to her, “Lady, you don’t have to shout at me, I’m not the one hard of hearing.” It turns out that hearing impaired number is for customers who are hard of hearing. I was just trying to be helpful and really this is the crux of the issue in my life. I am so convinced that I am not, that all that there is left to do is to help those who have the horrible fate of thinking that they exist. You could say I was born with this purpose, except what is not is not born, and come to think of it, purpose would be a gross exaggeration of Nosirrah’s non-existence.

You may wonder what I mean by non-existence, so let me explain. We exist only in our concept of our self; that concept is itself just a form of resistance to the vast nothingness that awaits the silence of the mind. We maintain our busy life of the mind as a kind of anxiety about our emptiness, and that anxiety is what we think of as our self. We say we want peace, but peace is the end of anxiety, and therefore the end of the self. So what we really want is to want peace, not to have it, because wanting peace is more anxiety and therefore more self. To end wanting peace and to simply be peace is to be nothing and that is a fearless state, or rather, a fearless non-state. Nosirrah has known this fearless state since birth. I was without fear and this seemed to make those around me quite fearful. I was taken to priests and rabbis, healers and psychics, psychiatrists and podiatrists, and all other forms of doctors. After much consultation and collaboration, I was not declared enlightened, rather I was declared to have a rare genetic disorder, Urbach-Wiethe disease. I had lesions on my amygdala, preventing me from experiencing any normal fear of terror-inducing hauntings and demons, ghosts and monsters, death threats, being attacked, snakes, spiders, none of these had any effect on me at all and since my childhood was full of all of these things, I had a pretty normal childhood.

But one thing in my childhood concerned me: if I had no fear, then how could I transcend fear and become enlightened? As a spiritual prodigy, at an early age I had read all the religious texts, The Bible, The Koran, The Bhagavad-Gita, Tao de Ching, and all the spiritual classics, over and over. I read in the original Latin and contemplated A.E. Walinbrucke’s Verum Nihilim, which makes all other books on human consciousness look like marginal postscripts, but I read on nonetheless, The Necronomicon, The Book of the Damned, Being One, Tales from the Crypt comics, and more. Later in life, I came upon the spawn of the New Age, books that told me to be in the now, then to be love, to be peaceful, to be mindful. But these books just brought one question to me over and over again: if I was supposed to be something other than what I was, what was I? I realized that this was a question that was neither present nor loving, peaceful nor mindful, in short, I realized that I was alive and was surrounded by the spiritual undead, zombies, spiritual zombies practicing zombie spirituality. You may ask how you can tell if you are alive or a zombie, let me explain.

Is there an emptiness in you that cannot be filled without endless, mindless feasting on the living? Do you have no purpose other than consumption, and yet there is no fulfilling the hunger? Do you stagger, grasping, clawing, irrespective of the damage it does to your own ravaged being, driven to feed, without knowing why, without even the question of why as a possibility? Is the drive to possess, to fill yourself all that you know? Are you a spiritual zombie?

Look around you. Do you see a shelf of books on spirituality and self-improvement? Does your credit card bill reflect enrollment in seminars, workshops, retreats or even on-line meditation groups? Do you feel that your understanding is not enough, that your stress level is too high, that there is something missing in your life, that happiness is available to everyone but you? Are you going to classes where you stretch your ligaments, work on your core strength or pretend to be boxing while jumping up and down? Do you use words from ancient languages, gestures from cultures and religions alien to your own, and read translations of ancient texts as if these are instructions directed towards you?

These are just some of the beginning signs of spiritual zombification, a kind of viral infection that is passed easily from the lurching zombie to you. At first you didn’t notice, a friend gave you an amazing book to read, or took you to see an insightful teacher, or convinced you to do a yoga weekend. This seemed innocent enough. But, soon the virus began to spread to your central nervous system, and the first symptoms began to appear almost unnoticed (one of which was that you began to refer to your central nervous system as your chakras). You began to believe that there was the possibility of enlightenment now, or enlightenment next, or enlightenment in a previous incarnation, but whatever that enlightenment thing was, you wanted it, you deserved it and you were going to get it. The zombie begins to have strange appetites. Sprout salad with a side of tofu begins to look like a tasty meal despite the intensive gas buildup in your third chakra (which is probably just a little energy movement). Books that were written for total morons begin to look profound. Even this book, which was written by a total madman, may seem weighty.

And speaking of weighty, the zombie not only reads spiritual books but also “understands,” although the zombie’s not always holding the books right side up, but for zombies these books make sense. They consist of an amalgam of all philosophies randomly cut and pasted into a chart of quadrants, levels, and fields, although all the fields are left fields (way out in left field) and published in immense volumes (see weighty) with the conclusionary tautology that if you understand and agree with the conclusion then you are at the highest state of consciousness and if you find the writings to be derivative ramblings that are unreadable, unintelligible and jargoned, then you are at a lower state of consciousness and cannot understand the conclusion anyway.

Think of it as astrology for the thinking zombie, or as a kind of technical stock trading system using charts and graphs – both result in a random success rate, but what we like to remember is the successes and what we like to forget are the failures. If you throw enough material in a book, even zombies will recognize something in that mass of information that resonates with their experience and the rest of the material just fades into the background. The trick is to make those books big, and then the zombie master has a career explaining it to his fellow automatons. Those who don’t get the teaching get eaten. Wait, don’t eat me, and then spit me out into the mouths of your followers like a mother robin feeding her young! Yuck.

One of these teachers can produce No Brain Activity at will and has a YouTube clip to show it. He does this while awake! No brain activity while awake – isn’t that great! And he did this with a special and rare form of meditation. It is everlasting awareness. Now that is marketing!

But, let us for just one minute engage our minds and remain awake, and I know this may be difficult for many of you (and no, you cannot turn on the television to keep your mind engaged). This will only take a minute. Engage your mind and follow this deductive reasoning:

All zombies have no brain activity and appear to be awake.

Human beings who are awake have brain activity and consider that quite acceptable, usually even desirable.

Human beings without brain activity are considered clinically dead.

A spiritual teacher has no brain activity when he is awake and has proudly placed video evidence of this on YouTube.

Therefore, the spiritual teacher is a zombie.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

For those of you who are not used to dealing with the kind of high level mathematical logic that I have just utilized to prove my point, let me say it in plain language: the teacher is awake but dead and he wants you to join his group of undead.

Inspired by this awesome demonstration of Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, I realized I have something to offer the world similar to this mind that doesn’t think. I have a flaccid body with virtually no muscle tone and barely the capacity to walk around the block. I did this by sitting around doing nothing. I would like to produce a YouTube video on this but have found a great deal of resistance to filming me with my shirt off , something to do with obscenity laws and local standards. My promise is that you, too, can have everlasting lack of muscle tone with my special meditation, found in my forthcoming book tentatively titled Sex, Ecology and More Sex: A Brief History of Everything Else Except That Too Complicated Integral Stuff . I put the word ecology in there because it is good to be green, although I am not really too ecologically aware myself, except I do collect aluminum cans when I am short on cash, which is pretty frequently, but if you aren’t really green then it is really good to pretend you are. It sells things to other people who are pretending that they are green. Real green people don’t buy things and that makes for lousy book sales.

I put the word sex in there twice because it is twice as important as any other word, even green people will buy something with sex attached to it and I am hoping some really stunning integral lady gets the hint that the word sex and everything it represents on all levels, all quadrants and all positions is important to me (except the position where I am bending over backwards touching my heels, that is a little hard on my back with Ms. Integral bouncing around) and even though I don’t have a cool loft apartment like the hip integralists, I would be OK in the back seat of my car, which is kind of like a loft, lots of glass and steel, good urban street view. I will have to move all my clothes and canned dog food out of the way (no, I don’t have a dog), but it is already set up with a sleeping bag.

But Nosirrah has one teensy, weensy insight, an insight that exists just at the outer edge of Everything, it is a known, so it is part of the Everything, but is paradoxically an unknown and so it is not part of anything. Here it is in summary: what is not known is infinitely more than what is known, and while it is impressive to endlessly rehash what is known, the true explorer heads for the unknown, where few go and the pay is not very good.

See also: Excerpt From “God Is an Atheist: A Novella for Those Who Have Run Out of Time”, by N. Nosirrah

Book Review for A GIRL ON A BIKE by Susan Emmerich

Title: A Girl on a Bike
Author: Susan Emmerich
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing, LLC
Genre: Essays
ASIN: B00UVVM6Q4download

A Girl on a Bike
by Susan Emmerich

Book review by Nicole Eva Fraser

Susan Emmerich’s irresistible reflections and vignettes are beautifully written—fresh, well-paced, well-crafted—and she has an astonishing gift for writing intensely personal essays with universally relatable notes. Emmerich calls life like she sees it; she writes direct, clear-seeing, non-fluffy prose, always with underlying wonder and gratitude for a world that brings both deep pain and amazing joy. In more than one essay, her openness to reveal her own flaws and fears brought tears to my eyes—tears of solidarity, and tears of happiness to have discovered this kindred spirit. I agree 110% with the reviewer who said this book should be on the New York Times best seller list! It will definitely be a birthday gift for my girlfriends this year.

07-2014-nicole-eva-fraser-230x280Nicole Eva Fraser received her MFA in creative writing from NEOMFA consortium in northeast Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Baldwin-Wallace College with a double major in English and communications. She is an adult-literacy activist in Cleveland, Tanzania and Malawi. She runs 10Ks (slowly), used to speak French, and often can be found putting her foot in her mouth. Fraser is the author of It’s the Hardest Thing in the World and I Don’t Think It’s that Simple.