Yes and No…Mostly eh

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The Writer’s Mentor by Ian Jackman, Editor

Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham

Summary  Both books purport to offer advice and insights to help you improve your writing.

Review
While neither of these books was worth keeping, at least “The Writer’s Mentor” lived up to its title. It’s quotes and anecdotes made me realize that even well-known authors can sometimes struggle with a story, maintain a regular 9-to-5 job despite being published and lauded, and don’t always consider writing as less than a full-time, underpaid vocation.

After reading this book, I felt mentored. I truly felt as if someone with more experience and a different perspective took my hand and said, “Look, others have felt like you feel, and others have gone through what you’re experiencing.”

However, if what you’re looking for is step-by-step instruction on how to write, “The Writer’s Mentor” is not the book for you. But then, neither is “Scene and Structure.”

Jack M. Bickham, author of “Scene and Structure,” is (supposedly) a well-known author. I, however, have never heard of him or his books. Despite that, I went through this book hoping for some nuggets of insight that might help me improve my own manuscripts. Unfortunately, I failed to find anything useful.

As a technical writer, I expect a certain amount of usefulness and help in a how-to book. (It’s why they’re called how-to books or self-help manuals.) What I found was dense passages of rhetoric and mind-numbing paragraphs that had to be read several times before I could glean his point. These were combined with self-promoting examples from his books, which did little more than shout, “See what a great writer I am?”

I don’t normally disparage the use of one’s own works when giving examples or helpful tips (heck, I do it myself), but in this case, I think it was greatly overdone. In addtion, the examples were not always applicable to the point he was striving to make.

So, if you’re seeking wisdom and instructions on how to improve your writing, skip both of these books. If, however, you need a morale boost, then at least try “The Writer’s Mentor.”

 

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Do You Know About End-of-Life Experiences?

veilbetweenworldsSeeing loved ones, angels, or other guides to the afterlife is a common occurrence for those who are dying. However, many living (and healthy) people find the concept ludicrous, frightening, or just plain fanciful. Yet, ask any hospice worker or doctor and you will find that they have hundreds of stories showing just how often this occurs.

Is it simply a daydream, nightmare, or hallucination induced by the dying mind or the drugs? Not according to most doctors and nurses.

As a psychopomp who escorts the dead to the afterlife, I’ve often been the stand-in for some loved one that the dead and dying expect to see–a loved one who has already moved on to another life or who is otherwise ‘unavailable’ to make an appearance. psychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2

You can read more about end-of-life experiences and people’s reactions to them, here:

Near Death, Seeing Dead People May Be Neither Rare Nor Eerie

Like him, but not so much the book

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Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke (and Todd Gold)

Summary:  Beloved Hollywood icon Dick Van Dyke will celebrate his 90th birthday in December 2015. He’s an established legend, having starred in Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. And yet he’s still keeping himself busy, entertaining America on television, movies, the stage, and social media. Everyone wonders, “How does he do it?” For the first time, Van Dyke will share his secrets and tips on old age: Just keep moving.

In a fun and folksy way of addressing readers, Keep Moving will serve as an instruction book on how to embrace old age with a positive attitude. The chapters are filled with exclusive personal anecdotes that explore various themes on aging: how to adapt to the physical and social changes, deal with loss of friends and loved ones, stay current, fall in love again, and “keep moving” every day like there’s no tomorrow.

Recommendation: Mixed feelings (in Amazon stars, maybe 2 stars)

Review:  It’s true that the narrative is fun and folksy, and I could hear Mr. Van Dyke’s voice throughout. I also enjoyed the snippets of biography that were included, such as how he and his current wife met and dated, and the relationship between him and his brother, Jerry.

However, the instructional part was less than useful to those who aren’t as well off as the celebrity author. This also made it difficult for me to relate to him and his ‘advice.’ For instance, his instruction to get up every day and have a sing-along with your spouse while enjoying birds and sunshine on the patio are a lovely idea. But it’s not something that most people can relate to, because most people (even elderly people) get up before the sun so that they can spend their mornings fighting traffic to get to a job that they may or may not enjoy.

I don’t begrudge Mr. Van Dyke his more than adequate retirement funds, he worked hard for them. However, most of us don’t (and didn’t) get paid millions; also, many of us got hit pretty hard when the stock and housing market collapsed. That means that many of us are struggling while just hoping we don’t get laid off because we’ve reached a certain age.

So, while I appreciated his happy attitude, I found the information rather Pollyannaish. I really wished that his ‘advice’ applied more to those of us living in a ‘normal world’ rather than his more rarefied and exclusive group of the rich and the elderly.