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Review: AMORC’S First Temple Degree Initiation Illustrated – The Full Version

AMORC'S First Temple Degree Initiation Illustrated - The Full Version Source: Goodreads
AMORC’S First Temple Degree Initiation Illustrated – The Full Version
Source: Goodreads

Length: 38 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

AMORC’s First Temple Degree Initiation Illustrated – The Full Version is a non-fiction by author Pierre S. Freeman that describes the journey taken by the newbies of AMORC as they begin to step into a world of, as they believe, self realization and higher consciousness. There is a smaller, abridged version of the book, with this one being a more detailed account of the entire initiation process as well as its adherence to actual ancient, esoteric practices. Most of the book is written as a recollection of the process of initiation. Freeman adds to this narrative, through his commentary, an insight into what the neophytes feel and are made to feel, as well as a satirical take on why this may be so. Having been a part of the same organization for over twenty six years, Freeman brings authenticity to the book in a way that only first hand experience can.

My take:

I have read AMORC’s First Temple Degree Initiation Illustrated – The Abridged Version and have also reviewed it on this blog. I picked this book up to see if it could shed more light on many of the concepts that seemed half finished in the abridged version and I was not disappointed.

The Full Version has Freeman’s signature style of sarcasm and satire that makes an otherwise serious topic seem oddly amusing. However, it never loses its seriousness and addresses the curiosity that many people probably feel towards cults and their magnetic pull. Freeman describes, step by step, what each new member goes through in the initiation process in a simple yet descriptive and accurate manner. While reading about this process though, you are bound to ask yourself many questions beginning with a simple ‘why’. Why is it that such a simple procedure has such control over the newbies emotions and willpower? Freeman provides the answer as he explains every small detail that goes towards turning a simple step into an effective procedure. Every small detail, including the turning on and off of music is mentioned to give you a real feel for everything that the newbies feel. He also explains how, through the use of varying pitch and tone, lighting, and even costumes, the newbies are maintained in a state of mind that would best suit AMORC’s purpose of incorporating them as members. But he also continues to describe how, to an outsider, this would seem very much like a dress up party and that too one that is not very successful.

This stark difference of understanding between one who has a point of view from the outside and one who is experiencing each part of the initiation procedure explains why the newbies are pulled into the cult and how they may be affected in the years to come. Freeman also explains, in complete detail, the actual practices that have influenced the initiation procedure. With a reference to a multitude of practices, across multiple religions, Freeman explains what it is that such newbies may be in search for, and what is actually taught to them through AMORC – the two rarely match, but these newbies are controlled by the belief that they truly are.

Freeman’s knowledge in terms of the many practices that have been in use over the years is expansive to say the least. He incorporates those ideas to give his readers an understanding of the meaning behind each part of the process and given the plethora of examples and references, it is quite easy for people to understand and associate with regardless of the religion or faith that they follow.

All in all, the book takes a serious look at the procedure that sets in motion life changes for some people, but it does so in a manner that is both educational and interesting. Freeman makes clear the differences between true organizations that believe in spreading knowledge of higher consciousness and others that simply use similar tactics to gain mind control of innocent people who then become financiers for years on end. Such cults are not something to be taken lightly. And Freeman’s matter of fact way of approaching the initiation procedure gives people an insight into how transparent and hollow many of these processes are – hopefully to let people make better, more informed choices if ever faced with such a need.

If you’re a follower of everything that is related to cults or have been a reader of everything that deals with the higher consciousness and ways to achieve it, then this book is a good one to add to your collection. It may not give you tips to achieve that for which you are looking. But it will surely tell you where you should and should not turn to in hopes of finding it.

– Rishika

Review: Wink (By Eric Trant)

Wink Source: Goodreads
Wink
Source: Goodreads

Length: 275 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Marty Jameson spends most of his days in the attic, doing whatever it is that he can to keep him there; because in the house, away from his refuge, lie his psychotic mother, drug-dealing father, and nearly dead comatose brother. Subjected to physical abuse from his parents at the slightest provocation and held responsible for an accident that resulted in his brother’s condition, Marty has almost no good thing to look forward to in life. The only one who cared for him is no longer a part of his life, with life taking its natural course; and the house that had once been his savior now breathed with an evil that remained in the shadows. But the evil made itself heard and see every night – in the very attic that is Marty’s haven in the day. That is why the twelve year old boy never ventures into that part of the house at night. With his very life at risk because of a mother whose rage episodes are enhanced by her addictions, Marty finds solace in a place he’d least expected – in the warmth of Sadie Marsh and her mother, the two who occupy the house next to them.

Sadie has seen Marty sneak into the attic, seen him bleed from his mother’s attacks, and seen his sadness. Confined to her wheelchair, she waits for hours by her window, looking out for the boy who seems to hold the only light of innocence in a house that seems to be filled with darkness. But their new found friendship is threatened by the very things that haunt Marty’s house; and the young boy is unable to accept that his bad luck and the evil that haunts him may affect wonderful Sadie and her kindly mother. But if he is to help them all, then he needs to face the demons that haunt him – both real and supernatural. And the first monster he needs to confront is the one that haunts the attic every night, the one that, every night, turns his haven into a nightmare.

My take:

When I began Wink, I found the story to be just about bearable. It regales you with the background and environment that Marty faces every day. While most of it was relatively interesting, it seemed to stretch on a bit without really going anywhere. I read on because it still managed to pique my curiosity, although not too strongly. But then it got interesting, and simply didn’t let up; finally making me go from mild curiosity to not being able to put the book down.

Eric Trant has created a character with which readers can really associate. It isn’t just Marty that you feel for, but everyone else that features in the book, however small a role they may play. His writing style may seem a bit odd in the beginning, but does grow on you, making the entire read much smoother. The only problem with that style though was in the odd shift of point of view. There are many chapters that are written from a first person point of view that come up at random moments in the book, which is otherwise written entirely from a third person point of view. The shift is a little too abrupt and takes more getting used to than the overall style of writing. Trant’s addition of chapter names, however, adds a little guidance to the change, in effect making the shift a bit easier as you get used to considering the names more than just a header.

The story itself is quite interesting, sometimes predictable, but never boring once past the first few chapters. There’s a lot happening at every turn and most of it adds to the complexity of the situation in which a simple boy finds himself. That makes the reader associate that much more with Marty who mostly carries the story himself, with little responsibility falling on the additional characters. While I wouldn’t say that the book was scary or frightening, it was definitely blunt in its narration of gruesome aspects while being intricately descriptive. That leaves you almost able to see the things that are being written about, sometimes with a clarity that can be chilling.

The idea around which the story is based is very interesting and seems like it can have more stories written around it. But I did find it lacking in depth. Throughout the story, and also towards the end, I kept hoping for more clarity and more explanation on every supernatural aspect. Also, many basic things that need to be wrapped up were left hanging, leaving me wondering just what was going to happen to the characters after the story ended.

All in all, Wink is a story that is written blatantly, depicting the good and bad for what it is without softening the blow. It may seem a bit too graphic and disturbing to some, but for those who don’t mind some graphic reading, it is a book that will make for good time spent. While I won’t say that I will be the first to buy a book that Trant writes, he is definitely an author that I could return to. And if you like fantasy thrillers, then Wink is a book that you should pick up – it may not be the best that you read, but it is in no way disappointing. What you take away in a positive light will definitely beat the few drawbacks that the book had.

– Rishika

Review: Hell’s Corner (By David Baldacci)

Hell's Corner Source: Goodreads
     Hell’s Corner
Source: Goodreads

Length: 448 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Camel Club is back in part five of David Baldacci’s gripping series. Oliver Stone is a man whose past is little known, a past that he wants to put behind him too. But when the President of the country he once served personally calls on him for a mission, Stone has little choice but to accept. But his responsibility is drastically altered before the mission even begins.

An attack on Lafayette Park, aimed at the British Prime Minister, leaves Stone in the middle of it all as he gets caught in the unexpected bombing. And Stone is given a new mission – to find the men responsible for an attack on one of the most secure places in the world. Partnered with Mary Chapman, an agent of the MI 6, Stone learns that things are very different than they seem… and no one is playing clean. So Stone turns to the Camel Club – the only people he can trust.

But the attack at Lafayette Park was just the beginning. And the Camel Club find themselves fighting against an enemy more powerful than they’d ever expected… and one that they are unable to recognize.

My take:

The fifth part of the Camel Club series, Hell’s Corner is a good, engaging read, but one that was just short of four stars.

David Baldacci spins out another smooth tale with Oliver Stone, the assassin you have to love. True to his character, Oliver is flawed yet just, and looking for his own redemption. This book shows him to be just that.

The story was engaging, one that kept you guessing till the very end. Unfortunately, the guessing did get a bit cumbersome at times. With so many things happening, you tend to feel a little lost. You do catch up  with everything eventually, but it does require some effort to continue reading when you are that lost. David Baldacci has proved that he can spin an extremely unpredictable tale. But at the same time, he fails to maintain the unpredictability throughout the plot. There were instances that were too obvious, leaving me a little bored with the amount of time it took the characters to figure it out.

Action-wise, the book is great. It has great dialogue, great narration and some pretty interesting action sequences – all aspects of a Baldacci novel that will keep you turning the pages. The story revolves entirely around Oliver Stone, even when he’s not in the picture, who carries the story along really well.

Given the amount of tacit knowledge implied, this book is definitely written as one of a series, and not one that you can start the series with. But if you have followed the Camel Club, then Hell’s Corner is not one that you want to miss. All in all, Hell’s Corner was a read that cannot be described as unputdownable, but one that is definitely unmissable. This book is a great read for anyone who likes political thrillers or suspense novels and anyone who likes Baldacci but hasn’t had a chance to turn to the series. And if you are yet to discover the Camel Club series, then you should hurry. This is not a series, or an author, you want to miss! Only point to remember – you need to begin the series right at the start!

– Rishika

The world as your inspiration

The term ‘Inspiration’ has a lot of impact on the life of people who rely on their creativity to make a living – an author is just one subsection of the people who fall into this category. The reason that inspiration has such an impact is fairly simple. We need to create worlds with people and settings, chaos and peace, negatives and positives, love and hate, anger and laughter and life and death. But how does someone who’s never experienced love write about the emotion that drives their central character? How do you write about a man who is the living embodiment of sex appeal and righteousness if you don’t know anyone who has those qualities? How do you decide the warmth exuding features of your heroine if you don’t know anyone whose eyes sparkle like hers should? And how do you create a man so vile that a snake’s skin would crawl at the mere mention of his name if there is no one who instigates that fear in you?

That’s where inspiration comes in. You don’t need to know someone who has all the qualities of your protagonist or antagonist. Just one iota of similarity is often enough, and you can build an entire persona around that one characteristic. The same works with settings. All you need sometimes is a simple image of an ocean and you can create a world that is set around that very beachfront. Those scattered images help you create the world that your characters live in and the characters themselves. Those scattered images are the inspiration you need. So where do these images come from?

Everywhere!

I find my inspiration in places that others label as peculiar. The antagonist of a movie has a steely resolve that I can associate with my story’s protagonist, with some morals replacing the thirst for destruction of course! A fleeting expression of seriousness on a friend’s face becomes the look my protagonist portrays if he’s had a life that’s filled with hardships. The silent support I receive from a close friend becomes the inspiration for the defining characteristic of my supporting character.

Initially, you may have to look for these inspirations – these scattered images that define traits of your story and its people. But a time will come when the inspiration seeks you out. Where others see only a villain, you will see the circumstances that made him the villain, circumstances that you can alter to make them the past life of your hero. Where others see a delicate woman, you will see the beginning of a journey where situations instigate the weakness to turn into strength. And where others see a silent listener, a shoulder to cry on, you will see the makings of an unmoving friend who stands by your main characters through their thick and thin.

And when the inspiration screams and reaches out to you, for you to see what the others don’t, all you need to do is go with the flow. So sit back and look around and you’ll be finding inspiration in areas that would’ve otherwise been left unseen. Just make sure that you’re carrying a little notebook that can house all the ideas that come hurtling your way, because they can surely overwhelm you if you’re unprepared.

All the fuss that is character development!

Every writer, whether published or not, has heard of the concept of character development until his ears are willing to fall off. Yes, your story has some protagonist. Yes, he looks a certain way. Yes, he’s supposed to behave a certain way. So why make all that fuss about something that’s so obvious?

The fuss stems from the very often seen lack of depth in character development. The characters of your book, like the real people in your life, live in a world that cannot be looked at in black and white. They all live in a world coloured with various shades of grey. Like reality, their reactions to situations, their manner of speaking and every little aspect of their behaviour is a result of the circumstances around them and more importantly, the circumstances they’ve come from. It’s not necessary that your readers know their entire background story; it’s necessary that you know their entire background story. Your readers can piece together the background story from little references that crop up occasionally and the character’s reactions and behaviour. I read an interview by Gabe Robinson recently (he used to be an editor with HarperCollins and runs his own editorial services now so he probably knows what he’s talking about). He said that authors tend to spend a whole lot of words and pages on giving a narrative description of one of their characters upon entry of said character. If you write a book and, in it, tell me that your protagonist is tall with blue eyes, black hair and an amazing build, I’ll believe you. You go ahead to tell me he’s an insanely calm person until you say something not-so-nice about his wife or family, I’ll believe that too. If you go further to explain his entire back story and more or less, all the major incidents in his life that made him the way he is, I’ll believe you again. But the point is I’m not necessarily going to enjoy reading it. Robinson says that sometimes, a brief initial description coupled with instances that come up as the story progresses where the character reacts in certain ways paints a better character picture than an all out description.

I could go on and on about how characters can be depicted. In the end, you will have your preferred method; what matters is that the character stays the way he or she is. Some story lines require that characters change, but if the change itself is out of character, the story is going to falter. Sure there’s an instigating factor that causes a change – but that change cannot be one that is dramatically different form everything the character is.

Ensuring that your characters react like anyone would in reality is easy – bring your characters to life, at least in your mind. When I wrote my first manuscript, I was practically living with my characters. I spoke of them as if they were real people (it confused the heck out of people who overheard my conversations – I was talking about murderers after all), but my friends were supportive and listened patiently, often offering advice if a reaction seemed out of character. Make their world real, make their pain real, make their appearances real – and you’ll think they’re real. Without you believing in their existence, your readers won’t. Your readers feel what you make them feel. So feel your character’s pain and anger and you’ll be able to pen it down so vividly that your reader feels like he’s known them all his life.

You can write about your character’s stories or let the reader find it out for himself as the story progresses and he can piece together pieces of the character’s life that he picks up through the progression. But technicalities aside, you need to think of your characters as living and breathing human beings. Daniel Davis (author of Wind River) recently mentioned why he loved Stephen King – because the man could portray characters so aptly that you see them reacting in a way you would have and then some. That is what most authors aim for and some attain.

You can read all you want about making your characters real, but the question remains – how does one do that? My method is simple, and I think it’s one that a lot of authors consciously or unconsciously use. My characters are based on the people I know – some eye colour here, some hair colour there, some temper issues here and some agony aunt behaviour there. I don’t mean I know people who are murderers and private detectives with a hidden agenda that borders on vigilante, I mean I know someone with eyes and a temper that suit my protagonist. Little bits of character thrown in, some from people I know, others from my imagination, and I get a believable character that I can associate with easily because of that element of reality.

Let me end this post on character development (another among so many by almost every writer) by saying just this – your characters make your story. If you create live characters that you can believe in, your readers will believe in them too; and if your readers believe in your characters, they’ll believe in the story that marks their endeavours, failures and triumphs.

Why do we write?

They say there’s a book in everyone. They say writing is easy. They say there’s an author in everyone. But then they have something to say about everything; and they don’t exactly spend all their waking hours trying to breathe life into words.

The first Stephen King book I ever read, which wasn’t too long back, introduced me to the phrase with which most authors can relate.

“An author is a person who has taught his imagination to misbehave” – Stephen King

That is the difference between someone who writes because they can and someone who writes because they are inspired to. If you write for the love of writing then you know the joy and the satisfaction in bringing characters to life, creating worlds out of nothing and giving people a face, an appearance and an identity. If you write for the love of writing, you write because you’re driven – something inside you, and around you, inspires you to create. This is why I can relate with Stephen King’s statement. I get most of my inspiration from my dreams. A single moment is all I need to see and remember before letting my imagination run wild and create a life for the people in that moment, their identities, their decisions and their circumstances that lead to that moment.

Leaving fiction aside, you have content writing and unless you’re lucky enough to have chosen your forte, you will find yourself writing about anything and everything. Sometimes, you end up writing because you have to, not because you want to; and yet you keep writing because the pull of the written word is too strong for you to resist.

My blog is for just those people – people who write because they can’t stop themselves. Whether you write content for websites, fiction for children or anything in between, this blog will speak to you as I share through it my experiences on my journey as a writer. And as I share my life lessons, I hope to learn from yours. Tips, strategies and anecdotes – I’ll try and put them all up. And accompanying all that will be the stories born out of my misbehaved imagination!

 

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