Christmas in ’45 – The New Novel This Week

An exciting week! October 1! My brand new novel CHRISTMAS IN ’45 releases this Saturday on Amazon Kindle. What about paperback? Well, it slipped out early and is available now.

If you are interested in grabbing a FREE Kindle version of the novel, you have three more days to enter the Goodreads giveaway.

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.

Yes, ice skates play an important role in the story!

$300 Back to School Giveaway – Join in!

I’ve teamed up with TheKindleBookReview, and you can win yourself a $300 Amazon Gift Card and help promote my new novel at the same time!

There it is! See it on the right? Christmas in ’45. It’s set to release on October 1, and I’m already getting some great feedback from some of my advanced reader reviewers.

Check out my new one and other books you might enjoy while being in the running for a $300 gift card!

Thanks for the support, and remember, if you like the read, please leave a review. That will go a long way in helping others find the book too.

Reading the Christmas Proof

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.

If you like historical fiction, Christmas stories, and heartfelt tearjerkers, then this story is for you. The Kindle version is available for pre-order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B6RWCN6B/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i6

Pre-release reviews of the book are starting to show-up on Goodreads. You can read them here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61410539-christmas-in-45

The Here and Now: A Reminder from a Child

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.

Dads, Sports, and Awe

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.

Release Day – THE LOST LINEUP – Novel #11 is Here!

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.

KINDLE – only $0.99 thru July 4 – Paperback $16.95

Excerpt: The Lost Lineup

In my novel releasing on Kindle July 1 – The Lost Lineup – Charles Henry is tracking down some forgotten ballplayers of history, who want just one more opportunity to play ball. In this scene, Charles and his adventurous companions witness a snippet of history – the 1870 assassination of black voting rights leader and ballplayer Octavius Catto, who only has one final wish.

_______________________________________________

“Octavius,” he called. “You have to come. The Irish are gathering down by the polling station. They’re intimidating everyone trying to vote, and the constable is doing nothing to stop them. And I saw Frank Kelly.”
“Kelly? He doesn’t scare me.”
“You gotta be careful, Octavius.”
“We’re right, aren’t we Jess? We have righteousness on our side. We have been granted the right to vote, and no one is going to stop us.” Octavius turned to the class, half of which had already returned to their seats while the other half milled around the three guests. “Class. Attention. Class dismissed for today. I will see you again tomorrow. Please go home and encourage your fathers and uncles and grandfathers and older brothers to vote. It’s the only way forward for us.” He turned to his bewildered guests. “I’m sorry, Winnie and Charles, but events are escalating. I have to go with Jess.”
Without another word, he turned and exited the building, Jess right behind him. The three followed them out onto the street. The busy Philadephia street had a glow about it. Cars whizzed but there was a veneer of light over the street, a filter which illuminated a mob on the far street corner, the place where Octavius headed. The mob chanted slurs. Angry slurs. Racial slurs. Some carried baseball bats, others raised fists that shook and mirrored their outward emotions. Some walked into the street, oblivious to traffic and the modern sights and sounds around them.
A man with a bushy mustache, wearing a derby hat and long overcoat, approached Octavius and Jess. He looked at Octavius closely, hand in his pocket, and walked past him. Then he turned around, pulled a pistol from his coat, pointed, and fired once into Octavius’ back. Octavius fell immediately to one knee and turned around to see his assailant. Frank Kelly walked up to him, pistol still pointed. Jess backed away, terror on his face. Octavius tried to move. He scooted a few feet away, still turned toward the tip of the gun. Kelly stood over top of him, and without a word, executed the teacher and ballplayer in cold blood, in broad daylight, in the middle of the street. Octavius fell to the pavement. Kelly placed the pistol in his pocket, glanced once at Jess groveling in the background, then walked past them both as if strolling for pleasure on a Sunday afternoon.
Charles and Winnie ran to Octavius’ side. Jess was gone, as was the angry mob on the corner. Other Philadelphians walked by in their 1980s garb. No one paused to look at the man bleeding and dying on the street.
Charles knelt over him.
“Can you help me, Doc Henry?”
“We need to stop the bleeding.”
“No, doc. I’m dead. It’s not the bleeding. It’s the baseball.”
“What?”
“Can’t you see? I want to play again. Just once more?”
“But how can I help?” Charles asked.
“Don’t leave it alone. Promise me. Promise me you’ll try.” Octavius pleaded and reached up with his left hand. “Just one more game, Charles. One more.”
Charles reached down for him, but he was gone. His arms searched for the man, but the pavement presented itself, and the sights and sounds of a late afternoon in Philadelphia took over. Charles sighed audibly. Winnie grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet. He felt a knot in his chest and Tommy clung to his side.
“What happened, Grandpa? Where did he go?”
“I think we just saw a snippet of history, Tommy.”

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!

I’m giving away 100 copies of the Kindle version of my new novel releasing July 1, 2022.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/347532-the-lost-lineup

This is a crazy, fun book. Adventure, baseball, history, historical characters, and lots of mythology surrounding the gods of baseball. I’ll be posting a couple excerpts in the next week for a sneak peek. But for now, hit the link above and enter the Goodreads giveaway before the end of the month. Thanks for your support.

Be Wary of the Intellectuals

What are the intellectuals of society saying today? Whatever it is, and I’ll let everyone think about that for themselves, be skeptical of their conclusions and what they want YOU to do.

I’m reading Thomas Sowell’s book Intellectuals & Race. Technically, on audio book. As usual, Sowell has crafted a treatise so rich in research and analysis, that’s it’s impossible to grasp it all on just one read or listen. But I wanted to write out a few salient points already coming to the forefront.

A quick perusal of history can show that the intellectuals of any certain era – though often well-meaning – can be wrong, so wrong, so incredibly wrong that their sophisticated language and eruditely argued theses can end up sounding like a steaming pile of balderdash to the generations which follow.

Sowell goes deep into the progressives of the early 20th century to see how the intellectual class latched on to the eugenics movement with prominent individuals such as Madison Grant, Margaret Sanger, and others providing the intellectual arguments for eliminating the inferior races. Madison Grant’s book The Passing of the Great Race went on to be the book Hitler referred to as his bible. Grant was not a fringe nut. No, he is described as one of the leading thinkers of the progressive era. He was very much mainstream, greatly admired by many politicians and leading thinkers of the day. As Sowell points out, Grant died in 1937 and never got to see what his ideas about race led to the Holocaust just a few short years later.

So goes the intellect. The soft sciences have created a myriad of highly educated individuals who have crafted many, well-meaning schemes to radically change societies, from Czechoslovakia, to Yugoslavia, to Pol Pot and his Killing Fields in Cambodia, and many more. The list of long and the destruction left in their wake is vast.

It got me thinking about today. What are the intellectuals of 2022 thinking, writing, and speaking out about? Where is social theory, in the hands of today’s intellectual class, leading us? What are the burning questions? The issues constantly being debated, pushed, rationalized, and upheld as the only logical way forward? (CRT, anyone?) What will the future generations say about the intellectual class that erupted on the new millennium? My fear is that they will not be kind.

It makes one pause and wonder about one’s own limitations to see the way forward. If someone claims to know the way to utopia, well, I’ll probably head in the other direction, especially if my common sense alarm keeps going off.

I still have a ways to go in Sowell’s book, but it’s a good one, and I recommend it.

WAVES – A Black Box Experience

I’ve been down the rabbit hole of theatre the past month, producing my new show “Waves.” We had a successful three performance run which concluded Thursday night with a great, responsive crowd, and a group of young actors who had loosened up to show their grit on the stage. It was a great experience.

For the production of this show, I decided to create a black box theatre experience. I was introduced to this concept more than a decade ago when I walked into the now-defunct Penang Performing Arts Centre. Their black box theatre had seating for 120 max, and it was modular and could be shifted into different configurations. I was intrigued by the intimate setting and quickly fell in love with minimalistic shows which brought the audience right to the cusp of the action.

My new show “Waves” was a one-hour show featuring three dramatic duets and then the 30-minute one-act entitled “Waves.” My school does not have a black box theatre, but it does have a large stage and many platforms which had been constructed for graduation ceremonies. Hey, why not create my own black box theatre? I did, for the second time ever, and it turned out great.

Let me walk you through the photos below. Let’s start with the middle top one. That gives you the perspective of where the black box theatre is: on the stage. The empty chairs in the auditorium look on, wondering what is happening. It’s the same look the audience members have when they enter the auditorium and ask: “What? I go up on stage?” Yep. The photo on the top left gives you and idea what the audience perspective is like during the show. It seats 80, so it’s intimate, and the actors are just a few feet away from the audience. It’s creates an urgency and an energy which couldn’t be duplicated if the audience was WAY DOWN BELOW.

The photo on the top right shows the complete set-up. It had three acting areas – two on platforms and one in the middle. We created the waves backdrop and these strange cage-like structures on either side, with beautifully painted waves on a wooden ramp. Everything worked great and the audience loved the lighting effects and the intimate setting.

The last photo shows some weary-looking director who needs a couple days to recuperate from a crazy, intense week. But these are the kinds of weeks that this crazy director lives for. Watching students come into their own on-stage, in as close to a professional setting that we can give them. Waves was a great success. Now let me rest. Be back soon.