Here are the Q&A
1-How long have you been writing?
In 1980, I invented a new way of making adobe bricks. Then the local kids invited me to a game of soccer. I joined in, muddy boots and all -- slipped over and wrecked a knee. In hospital, I was bored witless, so borrowed the office typewriter (yes, that's what people used then) and wrote an article about it for my favorite self-sufficiency magazine, "Earth Garden." This led to an ongoing association: I still have a byline column in the magazine, and have had one or more contributions in pretty well every issue since.
The result was my first book, written in partnership with the magazine's publisher: "The Earth Garden Building Book: Design and build your own house," which is still in print.
Creative writing started in 1986. I was a student nurse, and lived in a nurses' home. During my time off, I had a choice of making a fool of myself chasing gorgeous 18 year olds, or doing something constructive with my time. So, I started writing short stories instead. Won my first writing prizes that year.
2- What is your favorite genre to write?
Robert Heinlein wrote, "An ant is a specialist. A man is a generalist." Well, nowadays he'd have to substitute "human" for "man."
I write about anything that grabs my attention. My second book after the building one was "Woodworking for Idiots Like Me." I have two psychology self-help books, and one on dealing with cancer. One more nonfiction book is a biography that has won 4 awards: "Aniko: The stranger who loved me."
In fiction, I have a series of historical adventures set in 700 BC (when I was quite young), with 4 books for sale, and one to give away. One of them won a Dream Realm Award. A science fiction novel, "Sleeper, Awake" won an EPPIE Award. My other fiction books are anthologies, 3 of them.
Then there is my just-published novel, "Ascending Spiral: Humanity's last chance," which is science fiction... sort of; historical fiction... much of it; self-help psychological therapy, but fun to read... metaphysical fiction... Oh I don't hold with genre.
3-What are you working on now?
Publicizing Ascending Spiral!
Actually, I have a very full week anyway. I work as a counseling psychologist and that's pretty demanding. I do editing, and the jobs keep trickling in just slowly enough that I can cope, I am an environmental activist and a professional grandfather. So, writing needs to fit in where it can.
My current work is titled "Hit and Run." I have this lovely old lady, Sylvia, who was nearly killed on a school crossing, and witnessed the death of a bunch of little kids. When I started the story, I thought it would be one of just retribution, but that's not Sylvia's style. Instead, it turned into the redemption of people doing evil acts, and the way love conquers hate and despair.
This is not my fault, I didn't do it. I only write down what my characters tell me to.
4-When you begin a story do you start with character or plot?
As a beginner, I wrecked a couple of excellent ideas by just writing intuitively. My first good novel was meticulously plotted. A recent issue of my newsletter explains how to do this: http://mudsmith.net/bobbing12-7.html#plot
But, as I say there, I am now experienced enough to create some people, put them in a setting, give them a situation -- and then get off the stage and let them develop the story.
5-Tell us about your latest/upcoming release. What inspired it?
Well, it's out. You can buy Ascending Spiral at B&N
Or go to your favorite bookshop and/or library and order it.
What inspired it...
One day, I woke with a sentence in my mind:
"The first time I saw my love, she had long straight dark hair held in place by a red band, and pansy-blue eyes, and a long elfin face that was quick to flash into a shy smile."
I knew that the follow-up would be:
"The second time I saw my love, she had golden hair, and a square face, and a terrible temper."
"The third time I saw my love, I didn't recognize her."
I knew what the story would really be about: inviting people to help change a crazy culture based on greed and conflict into a sane one based on compassion and cooperation. That's what I just HAVE to write about, because I am a professional grandfather. I love lots of little kids, and not so little ones, and I want a future for them. Since I am a scientist by training, I can see that many of them don't even have a chance for a present.
Everything I do and say, including this book, is intended to be a catalyst for culture change.
There once was a man called Hypocrates. His dictum was, "Above all, do no harm." I want a culture where everyone acts in accordance with this.
But of course it's no good preaching at people. Instead, I have an exciting, gripping story, that goes where it needed to go without guidance from me.
I hope you join me and enjoy the ride.
Ascending Spiral: Humanity's last hope.
Pip was born into a Jewish family in a Nazi country because he needed suffering to grow into a healer, shaped to fulfill his purpose: to help change our culture from greed and conflict to cooperation and mutual care -- our only hope for survival. But he is the latest reincarnation of far a older being: the last turn of a spiral that started 12,000 years ago when an unthinking act resulted in a horrendous crime.
This book is his account of a few of his past lives, which have shaped him to become a tool for saving humanity.
In 2008, a young woman came to me as a victim of crime. I’d been warned that she was suicidal. She started to cry when I asked her to tell me her story. For five minutes, every time she tried to speak, tears ran down her face, sobs shook her body and she needed to wipe her nose. Hunched forward, hugging herself, all she could do was to feel her despair.
“Come on, Alison,” I said, “we’re going for a walk.” I led her outside. Speaking gently, calmly, and just loud enough to be heard over the noise of the traffic, I said, “Alison, look at the sky. See the color. Don’t put a name on it, just see it. The clouds. They’re just shapes.”
A truck went by. “Hear that sound. It’s just a sound. And now the smell. Don’t judge it, don’t name it, just experience it. And look at this wall, that pattern on it.” We walked a few steps. “Feel the pressure of the ground on your feet. Just feel it. And how your legs work. And your breath: chest rising and falling. That tree. Look, every leaf is different.”
Slowly we walked around the block. Waving blades of grass... the pressure of her T-shirt on her back... the look of a rose... the crunch of gravel under our feet... the pattern a butterfly wove in the air... I focused her on Now. This moment. This instant. This.
In ten minutes, we were back in our chairs. She could now tell me of her tragedy. She’d been pregnant. While tidying, she found the tools for shooting up heroin. When her guy came home, she confronted him: drugs or me. He bashed her up, so severely that she lost the baby.
We needed two more sessions. Then she left my area, back to her family.
Last week, I met her again. Health and contentment shone out of her. She carried a two-year-old girlie. “Hi Pip, remember me?”
“Alison. Of course I do.”
“Claire, sweetheart, say hello to Dr Lipkin.”
Kids are my joy. I made friends with little Claire.
“I’m so glad to see you! I now have a lovely husband, and this little darling, and life is terrific!” To my delight, she blamed me for her great improvement.
Then there are the emails, from all around the planet. Mostly they’re from kids. So, I have hundreds of grandchildren, most of whom I’ll never meet. Here is one I’ll call Maria Rodriguez:
Dear Dr. Pip,
I don’t really know how to do this because I never ask for help but I typed “I hate myself” in google and you came up first so I clicked it. I saw what you’ve done for other people and I was hoping that maybe you could help me.
I just turned 16. Ever since I was 14 I’ve thought about suicide. My mom found out a few months ago and she yelled at me, said I was disappointing her, and to be honest I don’t think she understands how serious I am about it.
I hate myself because I’m ugly, stupid, fat, can’t be loved, and I’m a liar. Kids made fun of me, so I made up stories about myself so that someone would talk to me and have even the slightest interest in me. However, I’ve been thinking that if something happened to these people, they’d die not knowing that I lied. So, I told my two best friends. One was completely understanding and is helping me. The other hates me and won’t talk to me which is a constant reminder of what a terrible person I am. I can’t tell some people because I have no idea how to find them and I feel terrible because I can never take back what I did. And there’s one person I want to tell but I’m afraid of her hating me too. My friend said to tell her when we get older but I can’t guarantee how long I’ll live. Then she said just to tell her. I can’t because she has been my role model since I was 5 and now she talks to me and I don’t want to lose that.
I hate what I’ve become, and I want to change. I’ve tried really hard but I couldn’t do it. No matter what I did something always kept me back whether it was the kids at school calling me fat, whore, lesbian, and retarded or my parents just making me feel inadequate to my other siblings, something always messed me up. I feel like suicide is my only way out. I don’t have money to pay you but I was hoping that you could help me despite that. Please help...I don’t want to live another day where I wish I was dead.
With love, Maria
We have now exchanged eight emails. The second-last was:
I’m sorry this has taken me so long but I’ve been meaning to thank you. You really changed the way I look at life. I just have one last question:
How can I forgive myself for all the mistakes I’ve made?
And my answer:
Maria my darling, thank you for cheering me up. I’ve been very tired after work all day, and dropped my bundle a bit. Then you picked me up.
There is no such thing as a mistake, a fault, or a defect. This is my view of everyone:
You are perfect.
Some of the things you do are excellent.
Most of the things you do are OK.
The rest are the growing opportunities.
If you find that a past act was a mistake, that’s proof that you’ve gained in wisdom. If you could do it again, you’d do it better. So, congratulate yourself.
If a past mistake has caused harm to yourself or someone else, then apologize within your heart. If it’s possible and appropriate, apologize to the other people affected. If possible and appropriate, make restitution. But there is no need for guilt or shame. Celebrate the fact that now you know better. Work out how to do the same kind of thing if the situation arises.
Maria, only two things matter in this life: what you take with you when you die, and what you leave behind in the hearts of others. Everything else is Monopoly money.
What can you take with you: Lessons learnt, gained wisdom ¾ or the opposite: hate, bitterness, blame and the like. So, you either advance in spiritual development, or go backward, or of course a bit of each.
Look after the heart, the Love, and you can let go of everything else.
Thank you for sharing the planet with me.
And finally, for now:
That helped so much. Thank you so much.
I have this ability to heal hurt, to lead people from despair and helplessness to strength and Love. This gives me joy, so, whatever may go wrong in my life, I am content. I am content despite seeing all the terrible things on our world. I see the craziness, the suffering, the way people hurt themselves, each other, and the wonderful natural environment we’re a part of. But it’s all right. I hate it but accept it, both at the same time.
What craziness am I talking about? When people ask me to introduce myself, I often say I’m a visitor from a faraway galaxy. At home, I’m an Historian of Horror, so Earth is my favorite place in all the Universe. Where else do you find an organized game (called war) in which intelligent beings kill each other? Where else are child-raising practices designed to damage children? And best of all, where else do you see the entire economy of a species designed to destroy the life support system of their planet? For an Historian of Horror, that’s delicious.
Well, one day I learned that this joke is based on truth. Indeed, I am a visitor to your planet. Don’t believe me? I’m just an old guy with a gray beard, right? A professional grandfather children love, a fellow whose sense of humor keeps getting away from him... not so. I really am a visitor from off planet, and I’m here to do a job.
I was not always content with life. For much of my existence (which, as you’ll read, has lasted over 12,000 years), I was hurting. But, you see, a person is like a diamond. Put some coal into a place of great pressure and heat, and it becomes the hardest jewel known. A person is like steel. Put iron in red-hot coke and blast it with oxygen for nine hours, then drop it, red hot, into cold liquid, then heat it again, and you have hardened and tempered steel. I needed all that suffering to turn me into a tool designed for my job. That job is to help you save your life, and the lives of those you love. Like everyone on this planet, you’re in great danger, and my reason for being here, being a human for now, is to be part of the effort to save us.
When it was time, I was shown what I had to know for my task. This book is the account of what I learnt. Let me tell you my story, and you can judge for yourself. I’ll start with the earliest recall of living on your planet I’ve been given, on an island off Ireland.
MY BEST BOOK JUST PUBLISHED: http://bobswriting.com/ascending.html
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