Thursday, May 31, 2007
I first came to this West African enigma in 1995 was run by an oppressive military government under the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. By 1999, Nigeria was a democracy and this year, for the first time in its history, a democratically elected government was replaced by admittedly flawed democratic elections. Believe it or not, this represents a great achievement for this fragile country.
I've been working here for 26 months this time, 28 days on and then 28 days back home in Indiana. The changes I have noticed the past two years and two months have been monumental. From the airport which is modern with all of its airconditioning and people movers working, to the people who work for the Nigerian government I deal with on a regular basis.
What I will miss most about this nation are her people. I have made many good friends here, from oil field workers to journalists and writers, to immigrations and customs officers. I shall miss them all.
I have high hopes for this country if it can ever free itself from the greed and tyranny that is implicit with fraudulently run state and federal elections. If the government can start treating those who have nothing in a gentler and more just manner, there is nothing the people of this country can't accomplish.
Farewell Nigeria, if and when I am able to conquer a few of my health problems, I definitely plan to land at this airport again.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Note: What follows is Chapter 8 of The Ghosts of November from the first edition. In the rewriting of the revision, significant changes have been made.
"Wait Until They Open This One in Dover"
Guyana is located on the northeast shoulder of South America. It covers about 83,000 square miles (216 square kilometers) and is bordered by the countries of Venezuela to the northwest, Brazil on the west and south and by Surinam on the east. Its northern border is the Atlantic Ocean.
All but about 30 percent of Guyana is made up of tropical rain forest. The country is located just north of the equator. It rains 80 to 100 inches a year and the temperatures are usually in the high 80s and 90s during the day.
Guyana is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in South America, with many rivers and waterfalls. But for most of the Americans taking part in this mission, beauty is not what they will remember about Guyana. If the jungle area around Jonestown was rich in exotic wildlife and flora, none of us noticed it because we were too overwhelmed by the ugliness that accompanies mass death. Grossly bloated bodies, deformed by so many hours of exposure to the heat of the tropical sun that they burst and deposited copious amounts of their putrid foul-smelling contents onto the earth, have a way of striking one blind to anything lovely.
As soon as the rest of the GRREG team joined the advance party and they all received a briefing from Colonel Gordon, the preliminary work of trying to identify the remains they were preparing to evacuate began. Jonestown was divided into sections and the remains found in each section were catalogued and tagged.
For the newly arrived mortuary affairs specialists who were now fanning out in to all areas of the clearing that made up the commune, the full extent of the carnage was quickly becoming apparent, as was the thought that on this unique mission, the identification process alone would be next to impossible. Only a comparatively few of the 914 bodies bore the handmade ID bracelets many family members attached to their wrists before taking the poison and even fewer had been identified by Odell Rhodes and his team of Jonestown survivor volunteers.
The condition of the bodies at this point in time, four days after the mass murder/suicide, made further visual identification impossible except for a very few like the Reverend Jim Jones himself who was among the first to be catalogued, tagged and bagged by the GRREG personnel. This was very disconcerting to some of these troops whose lives were dedicated to the business of processing the remains of human beings after catastrophic events and who prided themselves on being able to identify most of the remains they dealt with.
In a wartime situation, the ID tags worn by soldiers almost always provide positive proof of death and help to identify remains. In airplane crashes and natural disasters that involve the loss of many lives, wallets and jewelry can often be used to place a name to the victim.
But the remains of the residents of Jonestown posed problems that the GRREG team members had never encountered before in such huge numbers. Very few of the dead carried wallets or wore jewelry. By Tuesday, the bodies were badly bloated with heads resembling those of hydrocephalic children. They were in such an advanced state of decomposition, recognition was not possible. The color of almost every victim was a dark blue-black, making it difficult to determine even the ethnicity of a corpse.
The fact that nearly everyone who perished, be they Caucasian or Black, now shared the same color was a strange irony because the man they followed to their death, Jim Jones, was recognizably Caucasian. It was as if the members of the People's Temple had finally achieved a form of equality in death and the evil person who led them to their eternal end did not share this attribute.
There were name tags sewn into most of the clothing worn by the residents of Jonestown. Unfortunately, the communal lifestyle makes for the sharing of wardrobes, so many corpses wore clothes bearing two or three different names, none of which were actually their own.
The task of identifying the bodies was fouler than the process of placing the remains into the body bags. During the identification process, bodies had to be individually checked, pockets turned inside-out and ID bracelets read and recorded. This meant touching and handling the quickly decomposing remains, many of which were already displaying the eggs lain by the millions of flies drawn to the town. Maggots dotted the entire area where the bodies were.
One common form of life usually found wherever death in the tropics occurs was conspicuously missing from Jonestown and its sky. One can only speculate about the absence of buzzards, these scavenger birds that are as common in the warmer climes as cardinals are in Missouri. Perhaps these birds that feed off carrion and keep the environment clean, realized the men, women and children of Jonestown died from the ingestion of a deadly poison. I really do not know what caused the buzzards to stay away, but as an old tropical hand and a long time resident of South Texas where the birds are common, their absence in Jonestown added to the unrealness of the occasion.
By Tuesday morning, when the identification process was well under way by some of the members of the GRREG team, other began the arduous task of placing the remains in body bags.
The first attempts to pick up the bodies by grasping their heads and limbs and lifting them in to the bags more often than not, caused a limb or two or a head to become detached from its bloated liquid-filled torso. When this happened, a foul thick serous fluid would stream from the body part being held by a hapless soldier and an even larger amount would flow from the torso as it landed back down on the ground. Because the bodies were in such close proximity to one another, it wasn't long before the soil in Jonestown became a muddy mix of dirt and smelly human borne liquid.
As the first bodies were being bagged, I was sitting in our aid station in Matthews Ridge, breathing the air that was not fouled by the bodies in Jonestown. Fourteen miles is a long way for an odor to travel and being south of the commune, in an area where the prevailing winds flow east and west, we had little to fear that our atmosphere would become like that of Jonestown.
I knew the process occurring in Jonestown that morning involved the bodies being tagged and bagged where they lay, then they were loaded onto a trailer towed by the commune's tractor and driven to the edge of the landing zone built at the edge of the soccer field. The body bags would be placed directly on the Jolly Green Giants from the trailer and then flown 350 miles to Tameri Airport in Georgetown, where they would be placed in aluminum coffins that were marked with the occupant's identity, if it was known.
Every hour, the U.S. Air Force communications man in Jonestown would radio his body count report for us to relay to Georgetown. During the first hour after the operation to evacuate the bodies began, less than 10 of the dead had been bagged. An equally small number was called in after the second hour. Then, before it was time for the next hourly radio transmission, we received a rather odd request from Jonestown.
"Tell HQ we need snow shovels." was the curt statement that came across the airwaves. Snow shovels? Guyana is a tropical country that has never seen snow. How would we be able to procure snow shovels for Jonestown and why did they need them?
The call for the unusual cold weather implements was dutifully relayed to the Task Force Headquarters at Tameri Airport and from there to the U.S. Air Force Base at Charleston, South Carolina. Within six hours, three dozen snow shovels arrived in Jonestown for use by the GRREG personnel.
With the arrival of these simple tools so alien to this region of the world, the process of placing the rotting remains in body bags was streamlined greatly. Usually, six or eight soldiers, three or four on each side of the very fragile body, would lift it in unison, a foot or so off the ground. Two other soldiers would then slide an open body bag under the suspended snow shovels and the remains would be gently deposited inside.
This procedure sounds simple, but it wasn't always as successful as the GRREG team members hoped it would be. The body juices continued to flow freely from orifices and breaks in the skin, creating a slippery, gooey mess. Sometimes a heavy head, two times its normal size, would slip from the shovel and fall to the earth below with a thud after it became severed from the fragile neck.
But, for the most part, the bagging process was made much more efficient by the unconventional use of the snow shovels. A definite increase in the GRREG team's productivity was noted when the hourly reports were called in. We maintained a running cumulative total of the bodies bagged. By the end of the first day, nearly 100 bodies had been evacuated from Jonestown to Tameri Airport.
Wednesday found more than three times that number had been processed with the cumulative total reaching over 400. Those of us in Matthews Ridge, away from the actual gruesome scene being played out in Jonestown, found that figure curious because initially it had been reported by the GDF that around 400 Americans had perished on November 18. Now, here it was five days later and the body count continued to mount.
But in Jonestown, there was no mystery. After evacuating the remains of nearly 450 adult Americans who died in the massacre, it had become obvious the bulk of the residents had lain themselves atop one another, in layers if you will, after ingesting the cyanide-laced Flavor-Ade.
When the audio tape of Jones urging his flock to participate in the ritual suicide is studied and one is able to view the topography of the land, it appears the infants and babies who had the poison forced down their tiny throats by their mothers using needle-less syringes, were placed at the bottom of a slight and wide concave area near the pavilion. The toddlers represented the second wave of surely uncooperative victims to be killed and they were placed on top of the babies. Next came the pre-adolescents, then the adolescents, then the young teens, all taking their last drinks on earth in turn, or having the poison forced upon them, then taking their places on top of younger siblings who preceded them in death.
The senior citizens of Jonestown were the next to go, along with some of the mothers who were grieving because of the remorse they felt at having murdered their own children moments before. These people, young and old, all became part of the pile that appeared flat because of the lay of the land. Finally, able-bodied adult residents of the commune, either voluntarily or by force, drank the cyanide-filled fruit drink and became the final layer of what looked like 400 victims, but as actually an inverted pyramid of more than twice that number of dead.
Thursday November 23, 1978 was Thanksgiving Day, perhaps the most miserable one ever spent by the 100 or so American troops who had journeyed to Jonestown to retrieve the remains of their countrymen who died there. By now, the evacuation process had become old hat and harmless diversions were practiced by the GRREG personnel to make their hard tedious work under the hot sun seem to go by faster. One team of baggers would race another to see how many bags each could manage to fill in an hour. Grape Kool-Ade jokes were composed, repeated, embellished and memorized for repeating when they arrived back home, forever falsely stigmatizing the beverage as the drink of choice at the Jonestown Massacre. One graves registration specialist with a musical inclination composed a song about Jonestown in his precious spare time.
But even the jokes, races and songs could not take the minds of the American troops off of the football games they were missing and the parades and the home style turkey dinners that even the mess halls in Panama and the States were serving on this day. The troops in Jonestown did enjoy their first hot meal since arriving in Guyana on this day, however, in the form of Swanson's Roast Turkey TV Dinners that had been heated up at Tameri Airport and flown in by helicopter.
By Friday, November 24, the routine in Jonestown continued and the body count had increased to nearly 650. An absence of body bags had slowed down the progress considerably, but more were being flown in from the United States. Most of the adult victims of the massacre had been removed from Jonestown by this day and even the GREG troops were horrified to find most of the remains that were left were those of pre-teens and babies. A total of 270 children had been murdered in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Many were never identified.
Since body bags were in short supply and since the remains of the children were unidentifiable, the ingenious GREG personnel decided they would put the bodies of two or more children into one body bag. By this time, the job was becoming an exhausting one and even the most rabid of mortuary specialists were ready to clean up and go home.
On Sunday, November 26, by the time the last Jolly Green Giant helicopter of the day lifted from the Jonestown soccer field, all but about 50 of the massacre victims had been airlifted out. The next time these big choppers would take off from Jonestown, it would be carrying body number 914, the last American People's Temple member to leave the commune.
Monday, November 27 marked our last day in Guyana and the official end of the mission that brought 200 American soldiers to this tropical country. I was standing on the hot tarmac at Tameri Airport, thinking of how this country I had never heard of before would be remembered by most of my generation as the place where the Jonestown Massacre happened.
I was watching as the last helicopter that left Jonestown with bodies touched down. I observed as a group of extremely tired and thoroughly stressed out young American soldiers who had spent the last seven days of their lives removing the remains of dead Americans from helicopters did so for the final time.
As I noted the robot-like movements of these men as they repeated the process of picking a body bag up from the helicopter, walking to the tailgate of a waiting truck and depositing their burden on the truck, I saw that their faces were mask-like, completely devoid of any emotion. Their Army uniforms were soaked beyond cleaning with the sweat of their own skin and fluids from the bodies of the dead they had been carrying.
As I gazed upon this depressing scene, Colonel Gordon, the gruff, no-nonsense Joint Task Force commander approached me. "Brailey," he barked, "Did y'all bring any psyche techs with you from Panama?"
"No sir," I answered, "Why?"
"They were tryin' to put that dead go-rilla into a body bag," said Gordon.
Jim Jones had a huge chimpanzee that was kept in a cage near his cottage.
Jones called it "Mr. Muggs." It is rumored that small children were put into the cage with the old chimp as a form of punishment.
During my first tour of Jonestown the week before, I saw poor Mr. Muggs. He had been shot to death. That dead chimpanzee smelled much worse than any of the human remains did.
Gordon went on, "They kept tryin' to push that big go-rilla's shoulders into the body bag, but they just couldn't get it to zip up. I watched 'em for a few minutes until one of them graves registration guys was gonna hack its shoulders off with a machete."
"Hold it!' I commanded," said Colonel Gordon in his loud voice, "Why are you gonna hack that go-rilla up?"
"Because he won't fit into the body bag, sir," was the respectful reply of the ringleader of the GRREG soldiers.
"Why are you puttin' that go-rilla into the body bag anyway?" asked the tired and confused Joint Task Force commander.
"Why, sir? WHY? Just wait until they open this one up in Dover!" was the devilish reply of the leering GRREG soldier.
Gordon told me he said to the practical joker, "Now look son, I don't mind you playin' a joke on them folks up in Dover, but I won't allow you to mutilate that poor go-rilla just to fit him into the bag."
He took the machete away from the soldier and stood back watching. This group of six graves registration specialists who had just spent more than week bagging the remains of 914 dead American human beings worked for more than 30 minutes trying to maneuver the dead chimpanzee into the body bag. As the last Jolly Green Giant lifted off from the soccer field with the last sets of human remains from the massacre on November 18, the tireless GRREG troopers were still working hard to pull off their macabre joke.
Like most of the 914 Americans returning home to the United States through the Air Force Base at Dover, Delaware, Mr. Muggs had come to Jonestown from San Francisco. Unlike them, he never returned.
Friday, May 25, 2007
The play begins in a library with a white-gloved archivist lifting a choir robe from a box. It ends in a jungle enclave in Guyana called Jonestown.
Fondakowski used interviews with survivors and copious amounts of audiotapes that were found in Jonestown as well as letters and other archival written materials as sources for the verbatim dialog of the play. This method of writing the play allowed the true feelings of those who lived the Jonestown trauma to come through.
Her writing methods are very similar to those of another play The People's Temple is sometimes compared with, "The Laramie Project." Moises Kauffman and his Tectonic Theater Project used interview transcripts to craft their powerful account of the reaction to the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The play has been performed in venues across the country and was turned into a well-received HBO movie.
The People's temple has only played to audiences in Berkeley and at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota as far as I can tell. However, the artistic director of the Denver Theater Company, coincidentally, where The Laramie Project premiered, has said he hopes his theater will perform it in 2008. Hopefully The People's Temple will play to many more theaters across the country in 2008 since it is the 30th anniversary year of the Jonestown Massacre.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
It's a month to the day that the blog received its first visitor and we have received much more traffic than I had hoped for. We are enjoying an average of 19 unique visits a day (blue). Ten visits each day are from first time visitors and nine are from returning visitors (orange). On an average day, 41 pages are accessed.
The most visitors have naturally come from the USA, with more than 850 visits this first 30 days. France had the second largest number of visits with 29 and the United Kingdom had 14. Canada had a total of 12 visitors, the Netherlands nine, and Nigeria four. China, Brazil and Australia each had three visitors and Spain and Senegal had two each. Ten other nations each had one visitor, making a total of 21 nations that had people see the site.
We appreciate the continued interest people are showing The Ghosts of November. Readers from as far away as Bahrain and as close as North Carolina have said they want to read it. I am looking forward to getting it published and meeting with a lot of future readers as I go around the country marketing it.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Last night, a fellow from Great Britain told me he looked up The Ghosts of November on Amazon.com UK.
The Ghosts of November at Amazon.com in the United Kingdom
He surprised me when he told me what the book dealer was asking for it - £238 or almost $500. That's about 25 times the original retail price of $19.95. On May 31, it was listed at £120, still much higher than in the USA.
On the USA's version of Amazon.com, the book is going for $120. Frankly, I can't imagine anyone paying that much for it.
The Ghosts of November at Amazon.com in the USA
I am seeking a literary agent to represent the revision of the book with publishers. The new and improved Ghosts has so much more than the first edition, I don't know why I can't find an agent interested in pitching it to a publisher.
When I send book queries and proposals out, I include the URL to this blog. Perhaps some agent out there will see this and kindly explain to me why, with the first edition selling for almost its weight in gold, why they feel this book is not for them?
The Ghosts of November on Ebay Half.com
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Ghosts of November: Memoirs of an Outsider who Witnessed the Carnage at Jonestown, Guyana.
San Antonio: J & J Publishers, 1998.
Salvation and suicide: an interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and Jonestown
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, c1988
Awake in a Nightmare: Jonestown: The Only Eyewitness Account.
New York: W. W. Norton, 1981
Hall, John R.
Gone from the promised land: Jonestown in American cultural history
New Brunswick, U.S.A. : Transaction Books, c1987
Kahalas, Laurie Efrein
Snake Dance: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown.
New York: Red Robin Press, 1998
Kern, Phil and Doug Wead.
People’s Temple, People’s Tomb.
Plainfield N.J.: Logos International, 1979.
The suicide cult : the inside story of the Peoples Temple sect and the massacre in Guyana
New York : Bantam Books, 1978
The cult that died : the tragedy of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple
New York : Putnam, c1980
Krause, Charles A.
Guyana massacre : the eyewitness account
New York : Berkley Publishing Corporation, c1978
The Strongest Poison.
New York: Hawthorn, 1980
Seductive poison: a Jonestown survivor's story of life and death in the Peoples Temple.
New York : Anchor Books, 1998
Violence and Religious Commitment: Implications of Jim Jones's Peoples Temple Movement. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982
Maaga, Mary McCormick.
Hearing the voices of Jonestown
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 1998
Melton, J. Gordon
Peoples Temple and Jim Jones: Broadening Our Perspective.
New York: Garland, 1990.
Six years with God : life inside Reverend Jim Jones' Peoples Temple
New York : A & W Publishers, 
A Sympathetic History of Jonestown: The Moore Family Involvement in Peoples Temple. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985
The Jonestown Letters: Correspondence of the Moore Family 1970-1985.
Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986
In Defense of Peoples Temple.
Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.
Moore, Rebecca, Anthony B. Pinn and Mary R. Sawyer, eds. Nugent, John Peer
Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America.
Bloomington: University of Indiana, 2004
New York: Rawson, Wade Publishers, 1979
Nugent, John Peer
Jonestown and Other Madness.
Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1985
Raven : the untold story of the Rev. Jim Jones and his people
New York : Dutton, c1982
Reston, James, Jr.
Our Father Who Art in Hell.
New York: Times Books, 1981
Jesus and Jim Jones: Behind Jonestown.
New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1979.
Dear People: Remembering Jonestown.
Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2005.
The broken god
Elgin, Ill. : D. C. Cook, c1979
The onliest one alive: surviving Jonestown, Guyana
Indianapolis, Ind. : M. Towne, 1995
U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and the Jonestown, Guyana Tragedy. U.S. House of Representatives, 96th Congress, First Session. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979
U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing
The Death of Representative Leo J. Ryan, Peoples Temple, and Jonestown: Understanding a Tragedy. U.S. House of Representatives, 96th Congress, First Session. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979
How the Millennium Comes Violently.
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998
Wessinger, Catherine Lowman.
How the millennium comes violently: from Jonestown to Heaven's Gate.
New York : Seven Bridges Press, c2000.
The children of Jonestown
New York : McGraw-Hill, c1981
Yee, Min S.
In my father's house : the story of the Layton family and the Reverend Jim Jones
New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, c1981
Friday, May 18, 2007
I'll wait three months after submitting the postal proposals to see if I receive any positive replies, then I'll look for a printer to self-publish with again. Whatever route I finally take, I will get The Ghosts of November printed by June 2008.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
If the agent sent me a run-of-the mill rejection (i.e. too busy, not right for us, not the type of book we represent, not taking on any new clients right now,, etc.) I wouldn't have minded. But this?
Dear Mr. Brailey,
I had to respond to this clueless agent and here is what I said:
I am going to respectfully disagree with XYZ's assessment of my book. There is no other book that describes what happened in Jonestown after the massacre. Interest in this subject is as high as its ever been, evidenced by the hits I am receiving on my blogsite (http://novemberghosts.blogspot,com) and the emails I get on a regular basis from scholars and conspiracy buffs and all kinds of people in between.
I self-published the book in 1998 and did very well marketing the 5000 copies printed on radio talk shows. If I have to do it again, I will. I am committed to the success of my book and will do what I need to to get the revision published.
Thank you for your reply. I am confident Mr. Z. will wish he represented me next year when I hit the speaking trail with other members of the Jonestown Institute's speakers bureau. I usually don't reply to the replies of agents, but you are so very wrong about the market for my book I was compelled to in this case.
I originally sent the following query letter along with my book proposal, which you can find on another page of this blog:
My book proposal follows. I do have two more nonfiction book ideas to pitch to publishers. One is a memoir of my life as a derelict and the other a nonfiction narrative about cults in the 21st century.
What do you think dear blog reader? Did I do the right thing or should I have left the clueless agent alone?
To be sure, there have been a great many positive changes since I first set foot on West African soil some 12 years ago. The airport alone is the first major improvement one notices. Not only is the air conditioning comfortably cool throughout the building, the people movers actually work almost all of the time. The second improvement at the airport is the absence of would-be "helpers," scrambling to carry your bags for tips and there are absolutely no immigrations or customs officials with their hands out asking for dash money.
Until the recent elections, the roads were relatively easy to travel. There were no roadblocks of soldiers and policemen every few kilometers trying to extort money from passing vehicles. Once in 1997, when I was returning from a four-day trip to London, when I had to accompany a very sick American to the Hospital for Tropical Medicine there, my car was stopped when I returned. My driver, liaison and I were summarily removed from our vehicle and our the army lieutenant in charge asked to see my papers.
Unbeknown st to me, the military dictator at the time, General Sani Abacha, had arrested some of his generals a few days earlier and accused them of plotting a coup. Incidentally, the current president, for at least two more weeks, Obasanjo, was one of those generals arrested. At any rate, I was asked if I had returned to Nigeria to destabilize the government. Was I a CIA spy, the lieutenant wanted to know.
As our vehicle and my bags were searched, I tried to explain why I left and returned. Finally, a private pulled a stethoscope out of my bag and showed it to the lieutenant. "You are a doctor?" he asked.
"Yes I am," I answered in a Jon Lovitz tone of voice.
"Sorry for the misunderstanding, you may go," said the suddenly apologetic Nigerian officer.
I have worked very closely with some of the finest people I have ever known in Nigeria. I have been made an honorary chief, been given an Igbo name, and have been made to feel welcome and wanted by almost every regular Nigerian I have come in contact with. I've had the pleasure and honor of meeting Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and I have had the privilege of working with some very dedicated and proficient Nigerian physicians and safety officers. I wish I could keep working here.
However, a combination of personal health considerations and the increased actions of a militancy I find myself for the most part in total agreement with, have forced me to tender my resignation to the company I am consulting with. It is truly with a heavy heart that I physically take leave of Nigeria on May 31. My soul and spirit will never leave this country though and I hope to return here when their is a more equitable and just government run by statesmen instead of arrogant goons who care only for themselves.
I plan to write a book about my experiences in Nigeria. I am told this book is part of my destiny and it will change the core of how things are done in this country. I don't really know if I have the wherewithal to accomplish this or not. I am no where near the point where I feel I can start such a monumental project. Maybe leaving Nigeria will provide me prospective.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
- Turn a collection of thoughts and ideas into 50,000 to 100,000 words that are formed into sentences, paragraphs and chapters, that are interesting, well-paced, grammatically correct, pieces of information people will find readable, enjoyable, educational, entertaining, informative, satisfying, shocking, funny affirmative and/or new and unique.
- Rewrite and proofread and rewrite and proofread until you can no longer find any problems with syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Give the manuscript, either a chapter or two at a time or as a whole, to a friend or acquaintance who is the closest thing to a professional writer that you know and ask him or her to edit and proofread all problems with syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Don't rely on spell-check. Get a human being, preferably one who can proudly complete the Sunday New York Times crossword without using a dictionary or thesaurus to check your manuscript. Then find another friend who says he's a better crossworder than the first and have him/her do it again.
- Join a writer's group and ask its members to critique your work and offer you suggestions. Have very thick skin and be ready to defend your decisions or be ready to make changes in syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Take your manuscript to a writers conference and bravely read part of the best chapter to a group of fellow authors and would-be authors in the presence of a professional editor from a major publishing house who will critique your work in front of God and everybody.
- While you are at the writer's conference, attend all of the query and pitch session workshops you can and network amongst the literary agents there.
- Come home from the writer's conference and rewrite and proofread and rewrite and proofread until you can no longer find any problems with syntax, character development, tense, continuity, repetitiveness, and grammatical form.
- Study the all the literary agents you find when you google "literary agent" and find 100 agents who say they accept manuscripts of the genre you have written in and construct individual, concise query letters to those agents.
- Repeat steps 5 thru 9 until you are successful and your agent manages to find an editor who is interested in your work, but wants you to make just a few changes...
These are only the minimal things you need to do to get published. You also will need a well-written synopsis of your book, a marketing plan that keys on the contributions you will make toward marketing your book. If you don't discouraged completing steps 1 - 10 over and over until you get published, you should have no problems writing a synopsis and marketing plan.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, a 61-year-old Puerto Rican preacher
who or a few years has been creating himself for several years now, is quickly gaining notoriety as the cult leader most likely to succeed Rev. Jim Jones as the leader of the most dangerous doomsday cult in America.
The strange and apparently charismatic de Jesus Miranda, began his cult activities benignly enough by simply declaring himself "Jesus Christ." This pronouncement didn't exactly stop the presses. It's not like no one has ever done that before. But this time, Jesus Christ accompanied the announcement of his presence with the great news that with his return to earth, Satan has been defeated and for his followers, there is no such thing as sin.
Gullible Latino believers have come to this cult in droves, giving the man who calls himself Jesus money, jewelry, cars, boats, houses and even a multi million dollar business. There are now said to be some 300 congregations across the USA, Central and South America, who believe in de Jesus Miranda. With more Rolexes that one man can wear and his own private jet, the would-be Jesus decided to take his new religion to yet another unbelievable height -- he declared himself the anti Christ and had the number "666" tattooed on his body. That should have sobered up some of his followers drunk on the prospect of an end to sin, right? After all, the anti-Christ, he's muy mal, no?
No, his claim that he is both Christ and anti Christ only increased the fervor of his believers. They began getting "666" tattooed on their bodies.
de Jesus Miranda tells his followers that the Catholic Church, which a good many of them used to belong to, was evil. Proof of that was the fact that celibate priests participate in pedophilia and other sexual perversions. Perversions members of de Jesus Miranda's Growing in Grace cult movement are exempt from -- no more sin, remember.
He encourages his followers to picket and demonstrate outside traditional churches from other religions and they do. They even have been known to disrupt services. De Jesus's tactics are not unlike Jim Jones, who also used his temple members to protest as well as to support politicians, an activity de Jesus has yet to get involved in.
But he obviously exhibits control over his sheep much the same way as Jim Jones did over his Peoples Temple. Could Growing in Grace become the next Peoples Temple? There are many who believe it already has.
Three Central American countries have banned de Jesus from visiting their countries and having meetings there. However the thousands of followers de Jesus has in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras still can see their leader by satellite.
Growing in Grace bears watching. If a cult leader can convince his congregation to get the anti Christ's number tattooed on their bodies, what is keeping him from telling them to whip up some cyanide laced grape ade and partake? Or worse yet, what's stopping him from getting more physical with his actions against traditional churches?
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I've got so many writing projects in the mill, I don't know which one to start next. My latest idea has already resulted in the title story of a book tentatively titled Satan in a Box, A Collection of Nightmares. Here is the title story, for your enjoyment and to critique. Please comment. I want you to give me the good, bad and ugly.
Satan in a Box
By Jeff Brailey
The hotel was 13 floors of dreary unimaginative sameness. Frayed crimson carpeting with green vines and golden floral patterns had Marriott written all over them. Drab brown walls with numbered doors of a darker brown left no question in my mind, although it didn’t say it on the marquee outside, this was a former property of that famous hotel chain.
Actually, there was no floor marked 13, that number being missing from the elevator doors. The floors ran from 1 to 14, with the unlucky 13th skipped altogether. Yet there I was, wandering the elusive the hall of a floor I knew did not exist in this hotel.
Some hotels call the first floor “Ground” or “Lobby,” and number the floors above it 1 through 12, eliminating the stigma of 13 floors. It is not as easy for hotels with 14 floors or more to avoid the dilemma of a 13th floor, so they simply deny its existence.
I don’t know how I arrived on this invisible nonexistent floor. I remember chasing some unknown but eerie entity out of the penthouse on the floor above. Unsure whether my prey was a real person or a ghost, I simply wanted to find him or her to ask what he or she was doing in my hotel suite while I slept.
Suddenly, the being I had barely been keeping up with a moment before, stopped, turned, and grew about two or three times its previous size. Cleverly disguised with heavily platted dreadlocks that literally became slimy snakes, even the aroma of a body too long without a bath could not cover up the acrid odor of sulfur permeating from this evil Rastafarian. The smell instantly identified who he really was – Satan.
As the realization of his identity registered in my mind, I instantly knew the 13th floor was not the place to be. Suddenly, the hunter became the prey as this wild eyed Rastafarian bore down on me. Not a sound passed between us. The silence of the devil’s movement was terrifying enough. I fought the urge to cry out, saving my energy for fleeing instead of futile screaming.
Turning down a perpendicular hallway, I was completely lost. Only the numbers on the doors distinguished this hallway from all of the others. I came to a bank of elevators. As the devil closed in on me, I frantically pushed the “down” button and the car immediately opened. I looked at the numbers on the wall of the elevator. They all read 13.”
A totally pissed off Rasta-Satan blocked the door of the elevator. As I contemplated my next move, the old demon jumped towards me, leaving me no other choice but to dive under him. As he crashed into the far wall of the now-empty car, I opened the door that led to the stairwell.
Sure that the frustrated supernatural Rastafarian was one step behind me, I began running upstairs. My plan was to make it back into my penthouse suite and call hotel security to have my pursuer ejected from the hotel.
The next landing had a square black sign with white letters on the wall. It read “13.” I knew I had left the thirteenth floor a minute ago but the stairway continued to climb so I kept running up it in hopes of finding the fourteenth floor. It never happened.
Out of breath, I finally took a chance and opened the door on yet another landing marked “13.” As I did, a black-robed Rev. Jim Jones handed me a cigar box full of Havana’s finest. I told him it was not legal to have Cuban cigars in the United States. “It’s for the devil,” Jones said with a leer.
“Uh, he wants my soul, I don’t think he really will be placated by a box of stogies, even if they are the best in the world,” I told the Reverend.
“The cigars aren’t for him, the box is,” he shouted, thrusting the decorative container into my hands.
As I took hold of the box, Jones literally faded into nothingness and his form was replaced by Rasta Satan’s. I opened the box and he immediately turned into a rather acrid smoke and joined the cigars. I then quickly closed the box and found myself in the lobby of the hotel.
As I quickly assessed where I was, two ladies walked by. They looked like something out of the 1950s, crisp starched white blouses and navy blue skirts that extended below the knees. They both wore sensible walking shoes and their plain hair was worn in matching buns. Neither woman wore make-up. I recognized them to be Jehovah Witnesses and as they passed me several back issues of the Watchtower, I passed them the cigar box, shouting, “Satan in a box! Satan in a box!”
I then woke up and found my roommate’s overbed light on. “Was I having a nightmare?” I asked.
“You were definitely having a nightmare,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me to wake up?” I asked.
“What and miss the entertainment?”
Editor’s Note: Jeff Brailey is a freelance writer who lives near Indianapolis. He just finished a two year contract working as a safety adviser in Nigeria, West Africa. He takes a medication for Parkinson’s disease that causes him to have vivid and memorable dreams. He attributes this nightmare to having completed reading the book Out of The Cocoon, by Brenda Lee, the story of a child and her mother caught up in the Jehovah Witnesses.
I tried to email Dinah, but couldn't find the right email address. So let me put what I said to her on my blog in hopes that she will see it. If anybody wants to add anything to what I have said or to the comments in Dinah's blog, feel free. I've got a feeling the world will lose a great novelist if she gives up.
My email to Dinah:
I am assuming this is Dinah's e-mail address. If I am wrong, delete it. Dinah, it will be almost impossible to find an agent for your book because it already was self-published.
Live, learn and move on. You may get it published, if it wins an award, so get it entered into contests. That's how my friend John Shors got his novel, Beneath the Marble Sky
published. The book was first published by a smaller house then Penguin picked it up when it got the award.
Dan Brown wrote two other books before his big one. The DeVinci Code created an opportunity for him to sell the two manuscripts he had sitting on the shelf. That could happen
to you as well. But keep writing. And as I said before, get coaching and advice from professionals. My wife has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, she still
seeks out, uses and appreciates the advice of novelists and agents. I have been writing for money off and on for nearly 35 years. My book was self-published in 1998 and I
sold almost 5,000 copies in less than two years. My marketing was totally my creation and it wasn't easy. I am seeking an agent and publisher for the revision, which is made
up of more than 50% new material. Publishers will take on revisions of nonfiction that is significantly different from the first edition.
I can't emphasize the importance of joining a good writer support or critique group. But joining is not enough. Participate and appreciate criticism. A good site you can use is goodreads.com, but Writers Digest has good stuff too. Google "writer support groups," there are dozens to choose from. Do all of this and write a boffo second novel that is betterthan the first. You'll manage to find an agent and perhaps sell both books and a third you will have an outline for. A trilogy!! You may get a 7-figure advance.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
The most recent find is http://agentliterary.info/ , a page that Google sends you to if you conduct a search on "agent literary." Sherry's no dummy. She knows where to find desperate and innocent marks for her game of bait and switch.
Three of the five sites you will find when you click on this offering are poorly disguised clones of each other. Click on "Literary Agency Seeks Writers" and your browser will take you to www.wlwritersagency.com. Click on "Screenplay Literary Agency Seeks Talent," and you will end up at www.wlscreenplayagency.com. "New Literary Agency -- Childrens Books" will take you to www.WLChildrensAgency.com.
I wonder if Sherry is fooling enough writers to make her scam worthwhile? If anyone has been a victim of Ms. Fine's unethical enterprise and has a story to tell, I hope you will share it with us on our forum. In the meantime, if WL LIterary Agency, WL Literary Agency and Marketing Companym WL Childrens Agency or any similar sounding venture catches your eye, reboot your computer to get the cooties out of it and keep on looking for a legitimate literary agent.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
An Ontario Canada punk/thrash band, whose members no doubt weren't even born yet at the time of the massacre, has named its latest album for it. "Radar Hate drink the Kool-Aid and record Jonestown" shout out the headlines at Canada's ChartAttack.com website.
Of course, the alternative rock band Brian Jonestown Massacre has been around for nearly two decades. It has kept the name Jonestown alive as much as any other entity.
Documentarian Stanley Nelson's Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple, debuted on PBS in April and is slated to make the rounds in the country's art cinemas during the time leading up to the 30th anniversary of the massacre.
Another bizarre indication that Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and Jonestown are as popular as ever are the "Jim Jones" ringtones for sale on the Internet. Why anyone would want a cell phone that plays the last words of a cult leader urging his members to kill themselves is beyond me.
Then there is Fox News's Bill O'Reilly. This parody of a journalist not only uses "Kool-Aid drinker," as a term for people he disagrees with, whenever he says it, the cute little Kool-Aid icon comes on the screen. I can't imagine why Kraft Foods allows him to get away with this trademark infringment, especially when this disparaging of the beverage is not at all accurate. The actual powder used to create the potion that the residents of Jonestown partook of was Flav-Or-Ade, a product made in the United Kingdom.
I suppose we may as well get used to more tasteless marketing of Jim Jones and Jonestown memorabilia the closer we get to the 30th anniversary. Already on this blog we have warned readers about fake Jim Jones trinkets being touted on e-bay.
The worst that will happen in these coming days will be the misrepresentation of what really happened in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. One inaccurate reporter at the Chico (CA) Enterprise Record, wrote an article comparing the event to the Buddhist monks in Vietnam who set themselves afire to protest an unjust war. That comparison would have been valid had Jones self-immolated himself and not forced his followers to kill their offspring and themselves.
Jones was just another mass murderer who managed to kill, what at the time was the largest number of victims of a mass murder. In 2000, his 914 deaths were surpassed by a cult leader who managed to kill 1500 of his followers. Let's hope there is not some other warped cultist waiting to break that record.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Many conspiracy theories abound about the Jonestown Massacre. Some of them seem to have a basis in fact, like the discrepancy in body count that was due to the infants and children being placed in a mildly concave area and then layers of older children and adults laying over them. If you were not there, this seems like an unbelievable story.
But many conspiracies have been fueled by the statements made in a letter by a man named Charles Huff who purports to have been one of seven Green Beret troopers who were the first Americans to arrive in Jonestown after the massacre. I know that claim to be false because I was the third American soldier of the task force in Jonestown. My commander and brigade surgeon were the first two, but they didn’t stay any appreciable amount of time.
Huff’s story was printed in the Church of Scientology International’s Freedom Magazine in 1995. The cult, in an attempt to seem more mainstream, had taken over the Cult Awareness Network, whose newsletter first published Huff’s sensational lies.
Mr. Huff’s excerpted letter follows.
“I was assigned with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Panama. On November 18, 1978, we were alerted by the State Department to “rescue” American citizens in Guyana.
All the information we knew was that a U.S. Representative Leo Ryan and his staff were killed or wounded and American lives were in danger. Within five hours of the request of the U.S. embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, and the State Department we were “on site” in Jonestown.
This claim is patently ridiculous. The State Department was not even aware of the massacre until late Saturday evening. Unless Huff and his team were sitting in a hotel at Timheri International Airport, they could not have flown to Jonestown and arrive on November 18. The task force’s helicopters were not ready to fly until Monday, November 20. So right from the beginning of his letter, Huff, whose bona fides as a Green Beret have yet to be confirmed, is a liar.
For the next 30 days we stayed to return the compound back to the Guyanese government. When we arrived at Jonestown, we were met by the local Guyana Defense Force (six local policemen).
This is Lie #2. The GDF did not arrive in Jonestown until the morning of the 19th and there were more than a half dozen troopers in the security force. I met them and rode in a helicopter with some of them.
We found one elderly woman who had slept through the murders.
The elderly women, Hyacinth Thrush, was discovered Sunday morning, 19 November, by GDF troopers who found her wandering in shock through the enclave.
Sixteen American personnel committed suicide upon their return to Panama and other places. Three were murdered. One year later, those of us still alive were recalled from the Nicaragua Civil War to hear a CIA briefing on all the events which led up to Jonestown. As a veteran of Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the invasion of Panama, the Persian Gulf and Somalia, I have never been more affected than the Jonestown murders.”
I was stationed in Panama for another two years. There were no American personnel that I knew of who committed suicide. Some became alcoholics, but I knew of no one who died at their own hand or anyone else’s. As for this fantasy CIA briefing about events leading up to the massacre a year before, that doesn’t even sound reasonable. Why would soldiers be recalled from their duties in a combat zone to receive a briefing about something that happened a year earlier?
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Dear Mr. Brailey,
Thank you for your query, but I’m afraid I’ve decided to pass on your project. Since you will want to find an agent with complete enthusiasm for your work, unfortunately I am not the right person to represent you.
You should know that my decision is based on my workload and the type of material I'm currently representing. It is not in any way a reflection on the quality of your work, and I encourage you to continue to seek representation.
Thanks again for the opportunity to consider your project.
It's rejections like that that give a writer the motivation to keep on contacting agents.
But while seeking out my former comrades, I came up with the thought of having a reunion of task force members. November 18, 2008, will be on a Saturday and that will make it exactly 30 years to the day of the unprecedented mass murder/suicide. What better way to commemorate this horrific event than with a reunion of men and women who haven't seen each other in three decades?
I envision having it in my adopted hometown -- Indianapolis. After all, this is the city that Jim Jones first preached in and the original home of many of the followers that left the Hoosier State for California and eventually Jonestown, Guyana. I have emailed the men from my unit who had email addresses in the Military.com site, but that was only two former soldiers. If anyone knows the whereabouts of MAJ Victor Burgos, the 193rd Infantry Brigade Surgeon in 1978, CPT Richard Skinner, the commander of the 601st Medical Company at the time and SP$ Randy Fielder, SP4 Clifford Yoder, and SP6 Sam Bernal, I would appreciate it. I already know how to contact the other two members of our medical team -- SP4 Eric Vega and SP4 Mike Sanborn.
Any other members of the task force, no matter what branch of service, are invited to join us from November 17 thru 19, 2008, as we gather in Indianapolis to keep alive the awful experiences we shared so long ago. Perhaps then we can alert those who were not born then that "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Email me at JeffBrailey@military.com or by calling (317) 627-0359 and leaving a detailed message of how to contact you, if you want to be part of this historic reunion.
Monday, May 7, 2007
By Jeff Brailey
A frozen rain and snow mix covered the ground as I left the house. For a moment, I toyed with the idea of blowing off the 140-mile road trip to Florence, Kentucky. I could think of a dozen reasons to jump back into bed and only one reason to brave the winter weather – curiosity.
I opened the car door, adjusted the seat and turned the ignition. Suddenly the distinctive voice of Gordon Lightfoot flowed from my radio speakers. “If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts could tell, just like an old time movie, ‘bout a ghost from a wishing well…”
The hair on the nape of my neck stood up and that song cinched it. Even a blizzard couldn’t keep me from receiving my first psychic reading.
About four weeks earlier I emailed an Indianapolis psychic requesting an interview for an article I was thinking of writing. It took her two weeks to reply and when she did it was to ask questions about the nature of the proposed article.
I wrote back that with renewed interest in psychic phenomenon, evidenced by the Court TV show Psychic Detective and the new hit NBC series, Medium, I thought readers might be interested in her work.
Within a few days the psychic sent me a rather terse email stating she was not seeking media attention at this time. A couple of days later came the invitation to the reading Gordon Lightfoot convinced me to attend.
My Indianapolis psychic and a Kentucky counterpart were holding a reading for around six or eight people in Kentucky and since I had expressed interest in their work, I was invited to receive a free reading. Because the two women have no desire whatsoever for media attention, I’ll call them Beverly from Indy and Jan from Kentucky.
I arrived in Florence about an hour and a half before the scheduled group reading. I stopped in a strip mall parking lot and pulled out the email directions and phone number Jan had sent me. Large snowflakes fell as I dialed.
A vibrant cheery “Hello” filled my ear.
“Is this Jan?” I inquired.
“Yes Jeff, it’s me.”
I didn’t ask how she knew it was me. I told the friendly psychic I arrived a bit early and asked if she would mind if I came over. She said, “I wish you would.”
I arrived at Jan’s comfortable condo about five minutes later, meeting her husband who introduced me to her.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Jan said shaking my hand, “Your father has been here all morning.”
“My father!” I said shocked. “Are you sure?”
“Well, he says he’s your father, Jan laughed.
When Jan is scheduled to do readings, she prays about each individual she will read that day. When she prayed my name she said my father immediately came through. She described him as being tall, very energetic and a fast talker. I concurred with her description.
We agreed to wait for Beverly to arrive from Indianapolis before starting the reading. I sat down and gathered my thoughts.
My father was actually the last person I thought would contact me from the Great Beyond. He passed away 41 years before. We were not particularly close. His sudden death had a profoundly negative affect on the relationship between my younger brother and me.
We chatted for a while and when Beverly arrived, introductions were performed and Jan told her about my pushy father. Beverly went to freshen up as other guests arrived for the reading.
Since my father had been waiting the longest, mine was the first reading. What I heard from Jan and Beverly caused a dam in my brain to burst and my emotions came out as forcefully as a flash flood. They revealed information no one but my family members are aware of.
For example, Beverly said, “It was his heart and it happened at home very suddenly and you were not there.”
“Your father loves you, although he didn’t always tell you, he’s telling you now,” she continued.
Jan chimed in, “He’s talking so fast. Slow down, we’ll be here, we aren’t going anywhere.” Then to me, “You have two fathers or another man you consider your father.”
“Yes, my step dad” I replied.
“He and your dad were friends before he crossed over,” she accurately reported. I had known Jerry since I was a little kid. He married my mom four years after my father passed away.
“They are together,” both psychics said with laughs, “They were pranksters in life and are a couple of pranksters there too.”
That was true. Dad was one of the world’s great practical jokers and when he got together with his friends, especially Jerry, it was usually pandemonium.
I thought nothing could shock me anymore but what came out of Jan’s mouth next floored me. “Tell your mother they are together and they all will be together when she crosses over, just as they will be together in death.”
I never told anyone about the gravesite where my father and step father are interred. A stately granite stone sits in the middle of the plot. My father is buried on the front side and Jerry is on the back side. Mom will share the plot with them when she passes.
There were quite a few more revelations that validated that my father contacted me from beyond the grave. An uncle, a nephew and a cousin came through. Jan and Beverly told me things I thought no one in Indiana or Kentucky could know about my family and me.
The reading continued with each person in attendance affirming the presence of a loved one who had crossed over. Some of their revelations were as shocking to them as mine were to me.
I have began reevaluating my beliefs about eternity and life after death. My experience was not spooky or scary. In fact, it was reassuring and comforting.