Another of Haggard’s readers, Madame Blavatsky, asserted that Queen Ayesha embodied the first principle of the Theosophical doctrine, which stated there was a single, underlying inseparable Truth that had no cause and no beginning, thus unknowable and indescribable.  According to Blavatsky, it was Be-ness rather than Be-ing.  Yet this Be-ness comprised in its aspect the idea of absolute Abstract Motion, which encompassed the quality of Change. 

In other words, Queen Ayesha represented life, consciousness, and spirit.  Each of these three energies was dynamic and evolutionary.  Haggard took the two concepts – dynamism and evolution – and presented them in the reincarnated Queen Ayesha.  “My empire is of the imagination,” says She.  When the adventurers try to teach her Christian doctrine, she shrugs them off, saying, “The religions come and the religions pass, and civilizations come and pass, and naught endures but the world and human nature.” 

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In 1895, Haggard decided to enter the world of politics, running for parliament.  He lost.  Yet because of his recognized expertise in agriculture, sociology, and colonial migration, he received appointment to the Dominions Royal Commission.  As a commissioner, one of his duties took him to the United States, where he investigated the Salvation Army’s labor colonies.  When he returned to England, Haggard wrote a lengthy report of his findings.  The report went unnoticed.  Nevertheless, due to his literary fame and his extensive travels, Haggard formed and maintained friendships with many political figures.  He counted Theodore Roosevelt as a close friend, and dedicated one of his books, Finished, to President Roosevelt.

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For in 1881, the British Empire handed the Transvaal back to the Dutch.  Haggard opposed the formation of the Boer state.  He believed the Boers would impose an oppressive government on the natives, exploiting the land and its population for wealth.  Nevertheless, the British no longer controlled the area.  Haggard and his wife sailed for England, where they lived in Ditchingham, Norfolk.  Haggard studied law and in 1884 began practicing in London.  To relieve the tedium of his new profession, Haggard began writing.  His first book was Cetewayo and His White Neighbors, a study of African history of that period.  In fact, it was a poorly disguised condemnation of Britain’s policy in Africa.  The book was not popular, and Haggard was criticized for his viewpoint.

Haggard’s next literary effort was Dawn, a novel, which was followed closely by another novel, The Witch’s Head.  Both novels were uninteresting melodramas full of poorly painted bad guys, along with inklings of things to come – clairvoyance and foreseeing the future.  The Witch’s Head was notable only because portions were autobiographical.  This marked the first time Haggard injected scenes from his own life into his writing. 

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H. R. Haggard (Part 1)

One of the most popular authors of the late 19th century, Henry Rider Haggard entered British society at Wood Farm, West Bradenham Hall, Norfolk, England, on the twenty-second day of June, 1856.  He was the eighth of ten children born to William and Ella Haggard.  William Haggard was successful and prosperous barrister, while his wife Ella fancied herself a poet, although none of her poetry ever achieved publication.

As he passed through childhood, Henry Rider disappointed his father, who placed little faith in his son’s intellectual capabilities.  In fact, William Haggard believed that his son was slow.  Therefore, unlike his brothers, who attended exclusive private English prep schools, Henry was sent to Ipswich Grammar School and received additional tutoring at home.  Years later, in 1875, Henry failed the army entrance exam, not only embarrassing his family but fulfilling his father’s evaluation of his son’s abilities.  Because of his connections, William Haggard found employment for Henry.  As a result, Henry would become secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, the lieutenant governor of Natal, a British colony in Africa.

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In today’s world, commonplace wisdom states that you need a literary agent if you want to be published.  So authors spend lots of time sending out query letters and/or proposals to literary agents.  Sixty percent of agents don’t even read the queries, they just shoot back a standard rejection letter.  Another 38 percent of agents either have a stable of authors that is already full, or they specialize in a genre that is different from what you write.  Which means about two percent of all literary agents might be interested in taking on new authors. 

So what do you do?

You act as your own agent.  It’s easy and it works.  Right, you say sarcastically.  But what about all the publishers in Writers Market that state very succinctly “we only accept submissions from literary agents?”  That’s what they say.  But it’s a smoke screen. Otherwise the editors at the publishing houses would have thousands of submissions a week and never get any work done.  The reality is this:  sixty to eighty percent of the editors at the big publishers will take a look at what you send them, whether it’s a query letter or a proposal.  What they won’t take a look at is e-mail attachments or complete manuscripts.  So just send them your query letter or your proposal in the body of the e-mail.  If they are intrigued, they’ll ask for more.

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Book Review: Icicle Bill

By D. Razor Babb

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Of the many popularly identifiable genres of literature – sci-fi, romance, chick-lit, lad-lit, thriller – so-called ‘prison writing’ is perhaps the easiest to define.  Prison writing is written by prisoners, and includes poetry, short stories, essays, book reviews, interviews, op-eds, etc.  And novels, of course.

Enter D. Razor Babb, a prisoner in Cocoran, California.  Babb wrote a novel.  The novel is called Icicle Bill.  And it’s a humdinger of a read.  For Babb takes the reader on a loop roller coaster of a ride revolving around the story’s protagonist Icicle Bill, who lives just over the ragged edge of sanity. 

The story goes like this:  on a twisted journey of love, lust, hate, drugs, money and – ultimately – redemption, Icicle Bill moves from one adventure to another like someone slowly descending Dante’s Inferno to the lowest level.  Along the way, Icicle Bill encounters Molly the midget, Tommy Two-Head, a number of gangbangers, an outlaw biker dude, and an enigmatic woman whose tag is Apollonia Steffanelli.

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A friend of mine has more sunglasses than a whole bevy of Hollywood starlets.  Another friend of mine made the mistake of popping open her glove box one day as they jelly-rolled down the freeway in her convertible BMW, which is commonly called a ‘bitch basket’ on the Left Coast.  When asked why she needed so many pairs of sunglasses, she looked at her interrogator like he’d just announced he was from Mars.

Shaking her head in disapproval, she very patiently explained to him that in addition to the apparent protection factor, sunglasses were a very simple and very reasonably priced method of accessorizing one’s outfit.  Sunglasses could, under the right conditions, totally re-invent an individual’s total look.

Sunglasses, she observed, were a fashion statement of tremendous cogency.

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Not too long ago, a woman named Kathleen Myer wrote a book.  She titled it How To Shit in the Woods.  Some publisher actually published it.  It sold 1.5 million copies.  If Kathleen could find a publisher for a book called How To Shit in the Woods, then you can publish an article from prison.

Getting published is a process.  It’s like learning to ride a bike.  You start off on a tricycle, then you graduate to a two-wheeler with training wheels.  After you take off the training wheels, you go about ten feet and crash.  The next time, you go forty feet and crash.  Sooner or later, though, you do it!  And before you know it, you’re popping wheelies and riding with no hands.

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BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT: The Violent Empire of the Aryan Brotherhood

By John Lee Brook

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Gangs are rampant throughout the prison system.  One of the most notorious prison gangs of the 1980s and 1990s was the Aryan Brotherhood.  According to John Lee Brook, who wrote Blood In, Blood Out, the Aryan Brotherhood began in 1964 in San Quentin Prison.  A group of white bikers banded together to protect themselves from other gangs, which, back then were called ‘tips.’  Initially, the bikers referred to their gang as the Diamond Tooth tip.  Later, the name changed to the Bluebird tip.  Finally, they became known as the Aryan Brotherhood.

The author traces the gang’s involvement in producing and distributing crystal meth.  Through interviews with a number of gang members, most of who insist on anonymity, the book tells of the rise of a Superlab in the East Bay Area of California.  As the story progresses, the personalities and quirks of those involved begin to shine through.  One of the more interesting ‘stars’ of the book is Arturo Colano (a pseudonym), who is the sci-guy, the chemist who runs the SuperlabColano is extravagantly flamboyant, highly intelligent, and more than a little corrupt.  Which means he’s a charming rascal, on the one hand.  On the other hand, he is the fulcrum on which the see-saw of drug production pivots.

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Cotton Comes to Holland: Sex, Drugs, and a Journey to Sacred Mushrooms

By Titan Raines

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

In his wonderful little book Tears and Saints, E.M. Cioran observed:  “Generally speaking, science has dulled people’s minds by diminishing their metaphysical consciousness.”   Whether Cioran’s observation is correct is moot.  Those who disagree with it go merrily on their empirical way through life, while those who agree usually seek spiritual enhancement through any number of safe avenues:  yoga, eating organic foods, veganism, exercise, meditation, even religion.  Such people are well-meaning, kind, gentle and make wonderful spouses and parents.  Yet when compared to the handful of extremists who insist upon efficacious immediacy when it comes to expanding metaphysical consciousness, the safe-crowd is wimpy.  Which sounds harsh, but isn’t meant to be.  It’s simply that the extremists are fanatics, who recognize excellence and the superlative.  They aspire to emulate the ineffable.  And if they can’t emulate, they at least want to touch it. 

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