I was in class the other day. One of my students was reading one of my scripts out loud that his group will be performing in the coming weeks. At one point he stopped and looked over at me and asked, “How do you think of this? This is good. I never would have thought of this.” In all fairness, at his age, I wouldn’t have thought of it either. It took me many years to develop a writer’s brain.
I not even sure what a writer’s brain is, but if I had to nail down some sort of definition, it’s the ability to make connections which may not be obvious to others. Why it happens, I don’t know. But as I’ve recounted in different posts in the past that there’s some sort of trigger which flashes across my mind, giving the moment rise. It allows a single idea to take on a new life or at least potential for a new life. That’s when ideas are born.
Here’s an example. Maybe. I’m currently living in Saudi Arabia. Yes, the desert. It rains on average about once a year. Yesterday was that day. It flooded my street because the city has no drainage because, well, it rains only once a year. So when it does rain, everything shuts down, even if it’s not much of a downpour.
Yesterday, however was an impressive rain which lasted several hours. I couldn’t go anywhere without trudging through water. And as I was trudging through water towards my Thanksgiving Day dinner, I started thinking about water. Saudi Arabia spends an untold amount of money on fuel to power their desalination plants which provide the necessary water to support its tens of millions of people. (Hint, hint: California take note. But that’s another post) I have no idea how much oil it takes to power one plant for one day. I’m sure it’s a lot. Multiply that over the entire country and you can see the amount of energy it takes to produce the country’s water. Now, of course, Saudi has plenty of oil, so it works well for them.
However, as I was walking ankle deep in water, it struck me. All of this water is free. There’s a free blanket of water covering the city. This is a massive amount of water. Free! How many places just take it for granted? That’s why Saudi has tried seeding the clouds in order to produce more free water. Just imagine how a whole society could change if over time they were able to produce more water from the sky for them to use. And then my brain takes over. There’s a story in there somewhere. There’s a story of greed, of political motivation. It might be a science fiction story, of how a new breakthrough changes the way clouds can be seized and countries start “stealing” water from the sky, which begins to change the climates of neighboring places and …
This is how my brain works. It’s not likely I’ll ever write a story like that, but it’s the small connections in life which allow my brain to think of the possibilities and it allows the creativity to flow. Once it starts flowing, it won’t stop. That’s the most exciting part.
I currently have two new stories in the works. An Asian fantasy (inspired by something a friend said) and a contemporary tale about a social media mogul (inspired by reading the news). I’m loving the potential for both of these and can’t wait to have more time to write them.
Finally, on my third attempt, I was able to attend a marionette theatre show at the famed Gabziadze Theatre in Tbilisi, Georgia. The other two times I was there I found myself shut-out because of a sell-out. The theatre is a quaint place which seeps in reverence for the theatrical traditions of the stage. These marionettes are not made for children. They are made with passion and grace for the telling of the human condition in a delightful and creative way.
This theatre is all about Rezo Gabziadze, the founder and visionary of this theatre. He is a playwright and an artist, who is obsessed with detail, whether it be how a marionette is painted or how a scene is brought to life by the talented puppet masters hovering over the stage. The performers are seen in the background, dressed in black, as a way to remind the audience that these stories are not silly little sketches to amuse, but real theatrical entertainment to allow people to think and expand their minds on a delightful evening at the theatre.
I watched Rezo’s show “The Autumn of My Springtime” about a mischievous talking bird who lives on excess and hilariously insults his accusers – especially in the wonderfully funny and poignant trial scene. The whole thing might have been absurd if it wasn’t such an interesting snippet of life – and the bird is perhaps a metaphor for the mind of the lonely wife who loses her husband at the beginning of the show and morns his dearly. I don’t think this is what Rezo was going for, but there’s some literary angles worth exploring there.
And this perhaps illustrates the charm and depth of what Rezo tries to do at this theatre. The passion of the performance oozes through in stark clarity. I couldn’t help but want my own stage and theatre like this – not for puppets necessarily – but a place to bring art and passion and one’s life’s work alive.
Rezo has done this in remarkable ways. If you ever find yourself in Tbilisi, Georgia, you must find your way to this charming theatre. But book early!
There’s a Jewish saying that I used as part of my theatre shows a few years back: “Man plans, God laughs.” Who can argue with that? We control so little in our paltry hands. Of course, we’re not privy to the future, but we are privy to our passions and our gifts. We were made to be forward thinking people, regardless of where the future actually takes us. We only have the next day, the next footstep, the next moment, the next laugh. If its our last, may God know we went down treasuring life and all of its possibilities.
So with those profound thoughts behind me, I’m excited to share a few things which are on the horizon for me. I’ve been teaching theatre here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for these past six years, but I have decided recently that this school year would be my last. Of course, my writing pursuits have been sprinkled in to my time over these past 6 years as my schedule would permit it. I’ve been able to publish seven novels during my time here, but the rigidity of the school year always seems to keep me from pursuing other ideas and ventures. Well, no more. I’ve be moving back home to the states in June 2023 and will be looking at a lot of different non-teaching options. Of course, I want to be involved in theatre somehow, but my focus will be on writing, writing, and writing. Here’s a few items I anticipate will be happening in the early parts of 2023.
First off, I’ll be revamping this website. Stay tuned! Secondly, I’m in the early planning stages of a brand new yet-to-be-named newsletter that will be 100% free and will have a lot of exclusive content. The newsletter will be offering free short stories and other writings which will not be available anywhere else. I’m excited about a lot of the ideas I have! Also, it will include a running memoir, of sorts, of my twenty-five years of living overseas, as well as my thoughts on a lot of different topics. It will be unique, fun, and hopefully packed full goodies exclusively for my email subscribers. Again, this will be free. Look out for the new email list signup, which will be available in the next month or so.
Of course, my novel writing will continue. I’m super excited about my new one I just started. Sorry, can’t give any details at this time. I’m also planning on trying out Kindle Vella with my first serial story. I have an interesting idea I’m hoping to explore next week when I’m on break. Lastly, I’ll also be looking into offering my services for freelance work as 2023 unfolds.
If you get the idea that I want to write, well, you would be correct. Thanks to all the support you’ve given me, and let’s see what the next chapter will bring.
One reviewer said “This is a wonderful story to read together as a family in the month of December.”
Another reviewer said: “This is an outstanding novel in many ways.”
Another reviewer said: “I found this book to be so emotional … this novel is absolutely a must read for anyone who enjoys an outstanding books.”
Below is chapter one. I hope you’ll check out the link above. This is also a great Christmas gift for the reader in your family. Thanks for the support.
EXCERPT – CHAPTER 1 – Christmas Eve ’44
Roberta soared through the house. Room to room. Kitchen. Dining room. Living room. Laughing as she squeezed a wooden spoon in her hand, cross ways, like she pushed the wing of an airplane into the stratosphere. Her mouth hummed a steady rumble of an engine in flight, and she kept one pace ahead of Trigger, the terrier, nipping and barking at her heels in playful delight. “Hmmmmm. Whooosh!” “Roberta!” She sailed past her mother’s ear like a gale force wind, nearly causing her mother to spill a pot of raw eggnog she balanced in her hands. “Roberta! Be careful!” “Whooooo … Trigger. To the tree. Climb to the star of the tree. That’s what planes do. They soar to the stars.” She jumped on top of a stool next to the Christmas tree and reached as high as she could until the make-believe, wooden spoon plane zigzagged past the star on top of the medium-sized cut pine. “Mom! Can I have a string of popcorn?” “No. Don’t touch the tree. The Dwyers are coming over tonight.” “Can I have just a little?” “Not one kernel.” “Mom!” “Roberta. I’m busy here.” “So am I. I’m learning to fly like daddy. Do you think he’ll send me a real model airplane for Christmas?” “We’ll see if he got word to Santa.” “Mom, I don’t believe in Santa.” “Why would you say that?” “Because airplanes fly for real, but reindeer can’t fly.” “Christmas magic makes them fly. This is the season for miracles, Roberta.” “Mom, only planes fly. And birds.” “What about wooden spoons?” “Mom! It’s the only thing I got. I don’t have a real model airplane. Remember how daddy used to fly our silverware around the table during dinner.” Roberta made another flyover through the kitchen. “I never appreciated that.” “I did. It proves that anything can fly if you wish it.” “So then reindeer can fly?” “No, Mom. Don’t be silly.” She flew past the tree and plopped onto the sofa knee first, arms resting on the back of the cushion, and looked out the picture window into the snowy evening to watch flurries sparkling in the lights. “Can I please take a string of popcorn off the tree?” “No!” “Mom …” “Roberta, stop whining.” “Mom …” “Roberta!” “Mom. There’s someone coming to the door. They’re wearing uniforms.” A loud sound echoed from the kitchen. A metal banging. Roberta twirled around but couldn’t see what happened. Her mother said nothing, and the air in the room seemed to pause for a second, like the marrow of the moment had been sucked dry, like life was stiff and brittle. Knock. Three of them. Bare knuckled on the wood. Roberta ran to the door and flung it open. In front of her stood two men, who looked like daddy, three-buttoned brown jacket. Stripes on both arms which formed an A without the cross bar. Shiny small colored squares clung to the left breast of both of the airmen. And a bird, with wings spread right above the shiny squares. Roberta almost jumped into one of their arms thinking that … But the face didn’t match. She stared for a moment. Puzzled. She had never seen a uniform like this around there. Only the photos of daddy. The two men, standing shoulder to shoulder, removed their caps and placed them under their left arms. They wore no expressions, and Roberta thought they didn’t look friendly. Why would they be here on Christmas Eve? One spoke. “Is your mother home?” “Yes, she—” Roberta felt her mother’s hand on her arm. There was a tug, a quick one, pulling Roberta backward. She glanced up and saw her mother holding a dish towel nearly covering her face. Her voice cracked. “Roberta. Go upstairs.” “Mom, what’s going on?” “Go upstairs.” She pushed her backwards, and almost tripped over Trigger. Roberta scooped the dog into her arms and ran up the stairs like her mother said. But not the whole way. She stopped halfway at the landing, curious, lost in the eyes of the two men staring glumly at her mother, who leaned against the door frame. “Mrs. Ares?” That’s all they said. She collapsed on the floor to her knees, the dish towel covering her entire face, but it couldn’t muffle the sounds of the weeping. Loud. Wailing. Each audible breath like a pin prick in Roberta’s ear, telling her of trouble, but not explaining it. Roberta’s chest constricted like she was suffocating, and she cried too, for her mother, for her acquaintance with grief which visited her for the first time in the form of two soldiers. She held Trigger in a full body hug and waited for answers. The two men squatted. Each putting one of their hands on the grieving mother’s shoulders. The wind whipped through the open door. Whisks of snow blew into the living room and disappeared as droplets against the warm air. Roberta heard words. Whispers. They were like breaths of the winter wind, sailing from tree to tree, informing the forest of the incoming storm. Prepare. The attack awaits. Ready the wings. You’ll need them to fly to safety. After a few moments, frozen in fear, courage rose and she spoke once. “Mom?” The grieving wife let out a sigh, and turned towards her daughter. She reached for her, motioning for her to come. Roberta released Trigger onto the steps, and she ran to her and felt a hug like no other. It had nothing to do with I love you or Goodnight; this was a hug of intensity. The tears mingled into her brown hair, and they held each other. Trigger whimpered in the middle of them. “What’s wrong?” Her mother stood and grabbed Roberta’s arm. She walked her into the living room. The two airmen closed the door and followed. “Here, please sit.” “No, ma’am. It’s alright.” “Please. Have a seat. Could I get you some spiced cider?” “No, ma’am. We could come back if it would be better. We’re so sorry to intrude on Christmas Eve.” “No, please. Sit.” She motioned to the sofa, and the two men sat in tandem. Mother sat across from them on a swivel, high-back chair with Roberta on her lap. “Roberta.” Her mother had collected herself and spoke in a strong voice. “These men came with some bad news about your father. He has died, Roberta. In the war. I’m so sorry.” Died. The word had meaning. Some. It meant he would never come back. He would never cross the lake back to her. That’s what he had called it. She remembered. The lake. But she had lived without him for two years already. He was always far away, and now too he was far away. It didn’t feel different. Or real. But she saw her mother’s tears. Those were real. She remembered them from the funeral of Grandpa Newsom last year, and he never visited them again. Though they had visited the cemetery a time or two. She recalled the large stone with the words carved into it. Would daddy have a stone like that? Is that where I will visit him, beside Grandpa Newsom? No, it can’t be. I don’t want to visit Daddy there. Daddy promised me he’d come back. He would bring me an airplane. Not a real one. A model one. That looked just like the one he flew. Her thoughts formed into a question, which she asked to the two men. “Is Daddy still across the lake?” They didn’t understand. “Can you tell me what happened?” her mother asked. “In front of the child?” “Just tell us.” “Very well, ma’am.” There were many words she didn’t understand. Died kept ringing in her ears. She thought of her daddy taking her down to the lake, right across the street, and telling her what it would be like. Plane went down. She heard that. And she knew what happened when a plane crashed. She was far away from the conversation when she heard her name. “Roberta, her name is Roberta.” “Roberta,” spoke one of the officers, “your daddy is a hero. I have something for you.” He unpinned the wings from his jacket and reached across a coffee table to hand it to her. “Here. Take this. These wings will keep alive the memories of your father. Allow them to fly. Never hide them. Know that your father was a hero.” “Did my daddy have wings, too?” “That’s right, sweetheart. Wings of angels. Now you both have them.” Her mother could barely speak. She mouthed a “thank you” under her breath. “Is there anything we can do for you, ma’am?” “No, thank you.” “You won’t be alone here?” “No, we have friends and family coming. Thank you.” “Our sincere condolences to you and your daughter. From all accounts, your husband was an honorable and good man.” “Yes, yes he was.” The men left. The two sat dazed staring into the fire. Her mother told her to take a string of popcorn off the tree. Roberta did, and she munched on the kernels as she stared at the metal airplane pin in her hand.
I started writing this novel back in December 2021. It’s a short novel, which came together fairly quickly. I wrapped up the first draft in late February.
What’s it about? It’s a story told from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, who finds out on Christmas Eve 1944 that her father has been killed in the war. My goal was to create a story which takes the readers through the mind of this girl as she processes this tragic loss over the backdrop of the final year of the war. All her realizations come to a head on Christmas Day in 1945 – the year anniversary of her father’s death.
The three main characters of the story are all female: Roberta, the daughter, Tricia, her mother, and Roberta’s grandmother. It’s a story about Roberta wrestling with the concept of death in different contexts and trying everything she can to discover the truth about what happened to her father.
What are reviewers saying?
“Classic historical fiction … an outstanding book in so many ways.”
“I used a whole box of tissues and still had tears streaming down my face.”
“A simple storyline with a complex and poignant message.”
I’d be honored if you give it a try. Paperback available now. Kindle version on October 1st.
I’ve been reading the printed proof of my new novel.
It releases October 1. My first Christmas novel. A historical fiction account of a little girl trying to make sense of her father’s death in World War II.
A proof read for me is a post-edit final-type of read. (Though it may be correctly stated that authors never like to say final read because we are the nervous type that always want to do it once more.) Nevertheless, I have been really enjoying the read-through for a variety of reasons and it has indeed improved the manuscript in several ways.
A proof read will help find those persnickety little things that might have been missed. The missing question mark, for example. I think I’ve added three so far. There was one repeated word that needed to be deleted and a few very minor issues of italicizing and whatnot. It will just help clean up the final released version.
The sounds of a proof read may be the most important thing, however. By reading it out loud, I get to hear the language and this is where I catch things like a repeated word in two consecutive sentences, for example. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with that, but the sound is wrong. It feels lazy and there’s always a better word to use the second time to add more flavor to the text.
Mainly, I’ve just enjoyed re-following this young girl’s story. It’s been a couple months since my last read-through, and I’m always amazed at what I forget about the story – even though I wrote it. When writing, I’m so immersed in the universe of the story that I will remember every little detail, even if I don’t write them down. But after I let it sit awhile, the universe begins to fade and I get to rediscover little nuggets I had forgotten. It’s pretty cool when that happens.
My grandson woke up shortly after being put down to sleep last night. He was cranky, mad, frantic – full of whiplash and vigor at the world. He wanted what he wanted, but his mom held out to see if he would go back to sleep. Eventually, his forlorn screaming won the skirmish, and he found himself in his mother’s arms with a wonderfully warm bottle in his mouth. He sucked with delight and drifted in and out of consciousness in a peaceful bliss. Then the bottle was empty, but he had decided that he wanted more. The crying began again. “More,” he said in his unintelligible way, which was still perfectly clear to all onlookers. But that was it, decided mother. He was back in his bed with no more bottle and soon he did indeed drift off to sleep. The traumatic moments over. Mother relaxed with that look on her face. You know the one.
In the morning, something had changed. The little guy was bee-bopping down the hallway on all fours. He was clicking the buttons of his favorite toys, and he was living his happiest moment on earth without a second thought about the all the harsh trauma he had experienced the night before from his unreasonable mother.
He was the epitome of living in the moment. The past was completely gone. The future was not an inkling in his mind. He was absorbed with the immediate and he jumped head first into whatever was consuming his attention: the bottle, the toy, the sleep, the food, the play, the hug, the kiss, the smile, the laugh. The here and now.
Yes, you probably know what I started thinking. Why couldn’t adults be more like kids? Less focused on the wrongs of yesterday or the worries of tomorrow – more concerned with the person we are sitting across from – the task which is in front of our eyes – the small things we can actually do rather than the big things we don’t know how we will do tomorrow.
These concepts can be applied to anything. In my life, it applies to book marketing. Focus on the little things I can do today. Also relationships, who am I talking with today? Where are my feet planted and what’s in front of me? Why don’t I focus on that?
Life might be simpler and a little better if our gaze and our memory was shorter. Daily life is complicated enough. Why make it more so? I just need to remember to be more like my grandson, without the loud, shrill crying.
I went to the driving range the other day with my son and son-in-law. I was not there to work on my golf game. There’s no point in trying to resurrect that which has been long buried. But it was fun to hang out with the boys on a beautiful summer day.
I was sitting on a bench watching my two boys whack the ball with varying degrees of success when a father and son duo came to hit in on the section right beside us. The little boy was probably eight years old, and it seemed like the first time he ever hit a golf ball. The dad gave him some quick lessons and he hit these twenty-footers which elicited praise from the proud dad. I heard him say “We’ll need to do this more often.” It was fun to watch the father-son interaction.
Then it was the dad’s turn to hit. He smacked a couple – not particularly well struck. I know that for a fact because I am the master of not particularly well-struck golf balls. These hits flopped in the air well less than a hundred yards and plopped into the field of white-dotted balls. But the boy, he was over the moon every time his dad hit one of these “moon shots.” The boy would say things like “Nice shot!”, “Wow, that had some height on it.” “It almost made it to 100.” The boy was flabbergasted at his father’s ability. He was, in a word, in awe of his father.
It was a beautiful moment and made me think of a time when my dad and I went out into the big yard at my childhood home, and he was going to hit me some fly balls. I was probably 10 at the time, a young aspiring ballplayer. My dad was not athletic nor did he like sports. They didn’t interest him in the slightest. He would come to watch my games when he wasn’t working, and he took me to Three Rivers Stadium a time or two to watch my precious Pirates, but he did it for me. Not for his enjoyment. And that was the gist of this day as well. He was going to hit me balls so I could practice. I suppose I asked him to do it. I’m not quite sure, but he agreed.
Even though my dad wasn’t athletic, he was very strong. Always a hard-worker and he had huge hands and forearms. He could have been an athlete with his build. What I remember about this day is me running to the other side of our narrow long big yard, sided to the left by the garden -my dad kept in immaculate shape – and by the road to the right. My dad took the small wooden bat into his hands, tossed the ball in the air, and smacked it high into the sky. It went flying over my head and I just watched – in awe – to see the ball go so far.
“Sorry,” he said.
“It’s okay,” I replied.
It was okay. It was actually amazing. I was in awe that my dad could hit a ball that hard. I didn’t care that I had to chase after it across the road. I willingly did it, and I tossed it in and readied myself for the next hit.
Those are precious moments. The moments that matter. My dad turns ninety tomorrow, and I was glad of a simple reminder of the wonders of life just by watching a proud young boy watch his heroic father hit a golf ball less than a hundred yards.
Every new novel release day is a celebration of sorts. A celebration of an idea being brought from infancy to fruition. It’s hard for me to imagine that I ever would have gotten to this point – eleven novels out of my mind and into the world, but I’m grateful for the creative journey I’ve been on and will continue to be on.
The Lost Lineup is the follow-up to the story A Diamond for Her, my first baseball novel released last year. The idea for a sequel came fairly easily. I felt that the story of the gods of baseball needed to be explored a little more, and even if the protagonist Raymond Blythe was no longer around, it didn’t mean his story had to end. No, there’s much more here and who knows? Maybe a third book could be in the offering at some point.
But on this release day, I’d like to leave you with the first chapter of the book. It’s short and to the point. The gods of baseball, loitering around their field of dreams, waiting for the grand architect to show up and help them build the perfect game.
EXCERPT: THE LOST LINEUP – Myth #1: He Appears from the Trees
The downpour lasted an hour. Petra never moved from the mound. He gazed into the forest, arms at his side, alone in the middle of the diamond like a granite monolith playing homage to the weathered past, which had strewn its destruction but left beauty in its wake. The giant rock god lifted his face toward the rain as it pelted him straight on and flowed in small branch streams down his canyon gullies. No eyes peered out from the dripping pines. Melodic notes from the rain pattered and popped through the trees like a cacophony of glottal stops and tempered beats, providing a soundtrack to the dismal afternoon. Petra growled at the dark pregnant belly of the sky. “Ilios. Show yourself!” The sun spurned his command, and perhaps for spite, coaxed a streak of lightning along the backside of Petra, knocking loose a gargantuan boulder. Petra whirled around and picked up the rock, whipping it parallel to the ground right over home plate and into the forest to its rear. “Dasos! You never could have hit that one. Come on. I want to play!” “Wait for the rain to pause,” a deep voice from the pines reverberated through the plip-plop of the dripping water. “That’s all you ever say. Wait! Wait for it to stop raining. Wait for me to step into the batter’s box. Wait for Ilios to shine his tired face.” He paused and wiped the wetness from his brow. “Wait for him to come. Dasos, I’m tired of waiting. I’m—” At that moment, determined footsteps sloshed through the matted pine needles in the trees behind first base. A hand pushed back a branch to reveal a clear view of the field. The giant rock god, alerted to the sound, turned his head. “Dasos, he’s here.” The forest god, an equally-sized authoritative monolith as Petra, peeked over the edge of the tree tops. “So he is here. Finally, the wait is over.” “Yes,” said the voice from the trees. “But it’s not just me. We will all be here. Soon enough.” For one short moment, a synchronized smile slid across both of the gods’ faces. The time had come.