“Have an Emergency Fund”, they said.

Why do the sage financial planners have no influence over Washington D.C.?

Any financial planner worth their two-cents will tell you to build up an emergency fund, for, well, emergencies. One never knows when a person may lose a job or become ill and can’t work. There are myriad reasons why an astute planner will do their best to put aside at least a couple of months worth of wages to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

It’s prudent advice to follow. Unfortunately, it’s also true that some people are unable to put aside extras as they are living paycheck to paycheck. But if one can, it’s advisable.

And then there’s the government.

Now before I say anymore, I want to say that I was for a stimulus package to help Americans through this unprecedented pandemic. People lost real wages, businesses were shuttered–through no fault of their own. It is prudent for the collective–the government–to aid the country through such difficult times.

And so what has the government done? Passed more than a 2 trillion dollar stimulus with another nearly have trillion currently on the way to help small businesses. Fine. I’m a fiscal conservative. These are big numbers. I may not agree with all the targets of these stimulus packages, but fine. I’m okay with them.

But–and here’s the point–the government has NOT been following the sage advice of financial planners at all. Conversely, it has acted like a free-spending teenager with their parent’s unlimited credit card for decades now. When the American people needed it the most, the government did not turn to their “emergency fund” or their “rainy day” fund, because they didn’t have one. They had no insight or political fortitude to get their own financial house in order, and so all they can do is plop it mom & dad’s credit card. Deficit spending has driven the US debt into farcical territory. Oh, gone are the days of the “fiscal conservative” George W. Bush who racked up a “massive” 400 billion deficit in his last year in office. That amount was unprecedented. Too large to believe.

That, my friend, is mere pocket change compared the the spending which followed in the Obama years and now the Trump years.

2020 will dwarf them all.

BUT-there is a reason for 2020. The people needed it, and the government responded. Now because the established Washingtonites didn’t have their financial house in order, they have created a financial bubble which does not seem sustainable. Hey, I’m not an economist. I don’t dare say I have a crystal ball. But the financial planners tell us to PLAN.

There is no planning in Washington. They have let down the American people. Now as our debt will balloon beyond 25 trillion, we need to ask the question: What have they done to us?

The Apple Tree & Writing

The idea behind the following metaphor is not new. Other writers have expressed similar ideas. This is, however, how I envision a successful writing process.

Here goes.

Writing is an apple tree full of red, ripe apples. Every apple is an idea. From a distant observation, each fruit looks equally delicious. What a bumper crop! You shall never run out of things to write about.

However, the writer would be wise to show restraint and not impulsively climb the tree to pick every reachable apple, for every reachable apple is not a quality apple. A conniving worm might be eating out the core. It’s impossible to tell at this point.

Good ideas are more apt to come to fruition when accompanied by patience

So what’s a writer to do? Find a comfortable beach chair. Put on a Hawaiian shirt, keep the front unbuttoned, and have a beverage of choice within arm’s reach. Sit in the chair, stretch out your legs and ponder the apples. Patience leads to a little miracle called inspiration.

One by one the rotten apples will begin falling from the branches. Caution: a writer may not want to sit directly under the tree.

Once the rotten fruit has revealed themselves and lay a stinky mess on the ground, what remains is the one true apple, the sweet one, the crisp one, the one you desired all along, only you didn’t know where it was on the tree.

Suddenly, there it is. Redder than the others. Sweeter than the rest, with a hint of sour crispness which will make the plot even that much more unpredictable. Choose that one. The one remaining.

Be patient. Be observant. Allow nature to do the rest.

Then place that apple into your hand and devour it with every bit of strength that you have.

 

 

Look in the Mirror, Writers

It’s that time of year. A little inner reflection. Soul-searching, if you will. Writers of all stripes are known to stare out into the vast unknown of their empty page and wonder, “What am I doing?”

I’m never at a want for words when it comes to writing. I’m always stocked with more ideas than I have minutes in the day. But it doesn’t mean I approach these writing tasks with confidence. Not at all. I often wonder what I’m doing. Will any of these myriad words make sense? Will anyone find them interesting? Will I ever get out of my writing tendencies and make something truly creative? Will I ever stop using THAT word? Will I ever be good enough?

The answer to all of these questions is to look in the mirror.

The reflection you see is your answer. That reflection is you, or in my view, me.

I have to ground myself from time to time with these mundane thoughts which should be as plain as the sun is hot. But writing life doesn’t work that way, so I have to remind myself these few simple facts.

  1. I love to write.
  2. I was born to do this.
  3. I would continue writing if no one ever read another word I had written.
  4. I have a voice.
  5. I have unique experiences.
  6. I am not Hemingway or Steinbeck or any other of the greats.
  7. I don’t need to be them, either.
  8. I am not the sum of the doubts in my head.
  9. I am not the sum of the critiques from others.
  10. I am unlike any other writer who ever lived.

I just need to be that person. Me.

I always try to encourage young writers to be themselves better than anyone else can, and you will find that you have a unique voice, one worth sharing, one worth listening to. This is why the question “Will I ever be good enough?” is the wrong question to be asking.

Press on. Create like there is no tomorrow, because you only have a short time on this earth and we will be blessed to know how you look at the world. We’ll all be better for it.

Keep writing.

The Irony of Writing Time

I woke up this morning to a text message from Saudia Airlines, telling me my flight itinerary to Greece in May had been cancelled. I had planned a self-derived writing retreat, where I was going to split my time between the island of Poros and Athens for nine, sublime, uninterrupted writing days.

But like the rest of the world, well, yes; we know what’s going on. Travels, jobs, nerves have all been frayed by the little novel virus, which decided to wreck havoc on many untold and told plans. You know the Jewish proverb: Man plans, God laughs.

However, there is a bit of irony about this situation for me as a writer. It was not long ago – no more than two months – that I was lamenting to whoever would listen that I did not have any time to write. I had for months been busy with teaching and producing shows – all of which I love – but I was feeling it deep down in my being that if I did not get extended writing time in the near future, I would experience some severe life fatigue. Yes, writing is my release. Thus, I booked my trip to Athens. I’d at least have nine days.

Little did I know how the world, let alone my little writing plans would be thwarted and changed. Ironically, my 9 writing days in Athens has been multiplied. I did not see this coming. Ever since my country of residence (Saudi Arabia) clamped down to fight the virus, time has been one thing I have had. All flights have been cancelled. All school is virtual. Evening time is under a curfew starting at 7. Low and behold, my writing time has a bank ledger brimming in the black. I have so much time, I am starting projects I didn’t know I’d ever get to!

In the past two weeks, I’ve edited and compiled three play volumes I’ve been wanting to produce for years. My first play volume was published in 2016. It’s been four years, and now, all of the sudden, I have three new volumes which will release all at once. More on those later.

Now I’m staring down 9 days of spring break (I was supposed to be in Turkey) where I can begin a brand new writing project. And I still have those 9 days in May where I will be able to write from here.

My how things have changed. The tragic circumstances of the coronavirus is nothing to be thankful for, but one never knows when time, the most valuable commodity we have in this life, will give itself back to you. Please make the most of it. I know I plan to do so.

Theatrical Duets: Now Available on Kindle!

After way too long, my collection of theatrical duets is now available on Kindle! Included in the volume are twenty-two plays great for forensics competitions, stage shows, or theater classroom. It includes several award-winning plays including “Words to Say at the End of the World.”

Only $5.99 on Kindle

Also in Paperback

Pass this on to the theater-lover in your life! Thank you.

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Three New Play Volumes in the Works

Well, it’s about time. In 2016, I published a volume of plays entitled “Theatrical Duets.” I’ve updated it twice already with new scripts, but I have such a backlog of content to publish that I ended up not doing a follow-up volume to my 2016 release.

Well, no more. I have three new play volumes that I am currently working on for release, and, yes, I’m excited to get them out there. Again, all of them are short plays from very different genres and focused on completely different niches. Here’s what’s coming, though the titles may change.

  • Tales of Wonder: Secular & Sacred Christmas Plays for Stage, Schools, & Churches. (The Short Play Collection Vol. 2)
  • Dear High School (The Short Play Collection Vol. 3)
  • Christian Drama for Stage, Schools, & Churches (The Short Play Collection Vol. 4)

“Tales of Wonder” is the complete collection of the Christmas shows performed by the RLT Players at Penang Performing Arts Center in December 2015, 2016, & 2017. The first two of these shows were directed by myself. This is a delightful collection of funny, nostalgic, and dramatic pieces which, I hope, captures the true magic of Christmas. They are super fun to produce, and I hope a lot of people will enjoy them. I can’t wait until I can produce them again at some point.

“Dear High School” is a collection of high-school themed drama which focuses on the crazy and up and down years of being a high school student. This is a fun volume and I have a couple ideas of sketches to add to it before release time.

“Christian Drama” is an extensive collection of short plays focusing on a variety of topics related to the Christian experience.

The goal, if all goes right, is to release them all at once this summer, right around the time of the release of my ninth novel.

Lots coming together that I’m excited about.

Biggest Sale Ever – Entire FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY for only $2.99

Biggest Sale Ever – Entire FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY for only $2.99

A little magic, a little history, and a grumpy old man …

For this weekend only, you can pick up the entire THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY for only $2.99, and you can do it two different ways.

Book by book: the first way is download each book. Try the first one for FREE. If you like it, the next two books are on deep discounts!

Book 1: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far – FREE  Book 1 HERE!

Book 2: The African Connection – $0.99 Book 2 HERE!

Book 3: A Parting in the Sky – $1.99  Book 3 HERE!

OR PURCHASE THE ENTIRE BOX SET FOR JUST $2.99!  Box Set Here!

Deal only good through Sunday, so don’t hesitate! Get ready for a wild ride unlike any other!

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Bernie Tells a Whopper About China

Oh, I try to stay clear of politics these days. You know, yeah.

But sometimes, someone makes such an outrageous claim that I can’t help myself from chiming in. This post is courtesy of Bernie Sanders, who said the following in an interview recently on CNN:

“China is an authoritarian country … but can anyone deny, I mean the facts are clear, that they have taken more people out of poverty than any country in history. Why you criticize when I say that — that’s the truth. So that is the fact. End of discussion.”

First, the fact. Yes, China has taken more people out of poverty than any country in history.

Second, the non-fact. End of discussion. Nope. Not in a million years. Not until Bernie answers this one question: How did China relieve its destitution and poverty?

Answer: capitalism

So you see, Bernie has just disproved the over-arching thesis of everything he says about economics. He is crediting authoritarianism (and socialism??) for China’s growth. Major whooper alert.

Here are the other facts that Bernie has eschewed.

During the years that socialist command economics were under full-force in China, how many people were brought out of poverty? That’s the wrong question. How many people died because of their oppressive policies. Uncountable.

From Mao’s take-over in 1949 until the wakening years after his death thirty years later, China was severely impoverished. GDP per capita was among the lowest in the world. They were isolated from the world economy. The great famine of 1958-1961 killed millions. Their army was in tatters. When they attacked northern Vietnam in January of 1979 (hey, weren’t the Vietnamese their socialist comrades!), they were embarrassingly rebuffed by their southern neighbors who were actually poorer than they were!

So what happened? What changed? How is it that the impoverished China of the early 1980s has grown into an economic powerhouse?

I have to say it again: capitalism.

Economic reforms loosened the strings on individual achievements which were muzzled under the socialist command economy. And while the authoritative communist regime continued their hold onto power with a death grip (think Tienanmen Square 1989), the new economic freedoms allowed unprecedented growth and unprecedented foreign investment.  In other words, capitalism started doing its thing.

Let me leave you with an example from Vietnam, who following China’s lead, also implemented market reforms in the 1980s that began to raise the Vietnamese out of poverty as well.

In 1984, there was famine in parts of Vietnam. Their lush farm lands couldn’t even feed their own people. They had to import low-quality grains from places like Bulgaria. I’ve had many Vietnamese families tell me about those years living under a socialist command economy. The common Vietnamese word they use is “kho” – meaning miserable. And then the market reforms hit. The government began allowing farmers to exceed their government quotas of rice in order to sell the excess or plant other cash crops. What happened when farmers began to have incentive to grow more knowing that they would actually benefit from it? Production soared. Within a few short years of allowing people to pursue their own personal interests, Vietnam went from not being able to feed their own people to being one of the largest rice exporters in the world.

The transformation was remarkable. And yes, it all happened under an authoritarian communist regime.

But it’s not the regime that gets the credit, it’s the individuals (and also government entities) who took a risk to invest money, to solicit investment, to plant extra, to think big, to dream for a better life for their families. There was profit to be had by the people. And they did it. They used the mighty tool called capitalism, even within a tightly controlled economy, to better their lives.

So let’s make this very clear: socialism didn’t build China’s wealth. Not by a long shot.  Socialism doesn’t pull anyone out of poverty. It just holds back growth potential. Imagine where China would be today if Mao allowed entrepreneurship back as early as 1949?

So, Bernie, your China example is just disproving your point about capitalism.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. China has been experiencing their own brand of this for the past thirty years, no thanks to socialism.

The Men’s Room Podcast & a Student of Mine

Do you want to hear about the breath-taking changes happening in Saudi Arabia through the eyes of a 19-year-old Saudi-American student?  Well, here’s your chance. In The Men’s Room Podcast below, the host delves deep into the changes with one of my very own drama students — Sami Fathi. He’s an articulate communicator and talented young actor. I hope you enjoy his take on Saudi’s generation Z.

The Rise of Generation Z in Saudi Arabia