There’s not many things in life as subjective as one’s taste in music. But if I could declare the perfect song to exist, it would sound exactly like this:
From the Paul Simon-esque intro, to the sweet melody, to the flawless playing of Steven Delopoulos, there’s something beautifully nostalgic and welcoming about this song. I have listened to it over and over and marveled at the sublime messages, and the paired down clean and full sound of the band. It’s marvelous.
And the words, sorry, but there’s not a top 40 charted song today that can match Delopoulos’ poetic tones. Is it lost love? Lost friendship? Is it an attempt to reconnect with that special someone who hasn’t been heard from in years.
It’s a call to civility, a call to remembrance, a yearning for reconciliation.
And if it isn’t that deep, it’s simply a reminder: hey friend, I miss you. Don’t forget to write.
And if this seems pathetically maudlin, well, I’m not sorry.
In 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, Edwin Drake struck oil, captured it, and established the first commercial oil well in the world. Drake’s well. Here it is in August of 2020:
Western Pennsylvania became the oil capital of the world for the next decade. The oil rush was on. Scores of wells dotted the aptly named Oil Creek area between Titusville, Oil City (see a theme here), and the expanded region. Some folks struck it rich fast. Others were not so lucky. Kerosene had been discovered only a few years earlier in 1853. This made oil a suddenly valued commodity. Through the processing of oil, kerosene could be used to light the big cities of the nation, and that it did for the next forty plus years until electricity took over.
It wasn’t long, however, until substantial oil reserves were discovered in Texas and elsewhere which dwarfed the nascent Pennsylvania industry. Pennsylvania didn’t last as the world’s greatest producer, but it did have a lasting effect on the oil industry and the region. Many towns were forever affected by the industry. (Oil City, Petrolia, Petroleum Center) Didn’t you ever wonder why there were so many Pennsylvania-centric brands of oil: Pennzoil, Quaker State, Kendall, etc…
In an interesting twist of fate, Pennsylvania has once again become a major player in the fossil fuel industry through the prolific fracking done over the past ten years to extract natural gas from the massive Marcellus Shale. Yep, Titusville is right in the middle of it.
Here’s a modern-day railroad bridge over Oil Creek a few miles south of Titusville. (I snapped this one on my bike ride at the fantastic Oil Creek Bike Trail.)
Drake’s Well and Museum can be visited (in non-Covid years) through the spring-fall months as part of Pennsylvania’s Oil Creek State Park.
FUN FACT: Did you know that the by-product of making kerosene is this obscure little product called gasoline? Oh, you heard of it. In the past, gasoline was thrown away. It was deemed too combustible and dangerous to be used. However, once the internal combustion engine was invented, it was gasoline which became king and kerosene became more a second thought.
I had a great time with author and book reviewer Fran Lewis on her blogtalkradio show this morning. We chatted for an hour about my latest novel Moses the Singer. We delved into themes, characters, story, and how the novel came about.
Learn about the genesis of the main character Musa Marbun and how it all started when living in Asia and seeing the difficult lives of many of the poorer people. I also talked about my years teaching teenagers and how that helped me craft the young musicians in the story.
My new novel MOSES THE SINGER is on sale for only 99 cents July 30 through August 5! This is the first time this novel’s price has ever been reduced, so please take advantage of it. What’s it about?
A talented group of teen musicians. A stateless old man living on the margins of society. What do they have in common? Humanity and sweet music.Will, Sanchez, Song-Yi, and Stephanie attend an American international school on the island of Penang, Malaysia. But at night, they are a talented band of musicians striving to win their school’s talent show, so they can further their dreams of becoming professional musicians.
Musa “Moses” Marbun has been without a country for forty-six years. The crippled and destitute rickshaw driver pedals tourists through the quaint streets of Penang’s capital city to meet his daily needs.
One day when downtown, Song-Yi witnesses Musa being beaten on a sidewalk for a theft he didn’t commit. As she intervenes on his behalf, an unlikely friendship ensues, which puts the band on a collision course with musical destiny while Musa hopes to end his decades long journey through the wilderness by confronting his past.
Introducing the Band:
Song-Yi, lead singer
Will, guitarist & composer
Sanchez, bass guitarist
Moses the Singer
Author Colleen Chesebro posted a great review of my latest novel. Here’s her first paragraph:
“I’ve been a fan of Mark Sasse’s books for around six years, now. What makes his writing most memorable is how his characters often require lessons to learn and various problems to overcome before they reach redemption. Many of his stories take place in or around Penang, Malaysia where Sasse taught school, which gives his stories a unique Asian flair.”
Please head on over to her great site to read the rest HERE!
I wrote this novel in the summer of 2019, and one of my projects this past year was to revise, edit, and eventually publish it. It’s finally here.
This story spawns out of two ideas. First, the downtrodden of society. I’ve lived overseas many years and I’ve witnessed scores of hardworking people who had basically nothing. It made me realize how lucky and privileged I am in the simple things of life like having a nice bed, plenty of food, heat and running water–let alone the chance to travel and use technology. I’m blessed, and I know it. One thought I’ve always had was who are the ultra-talented people in society who have never had a chance to shine and grow in their talent. How many incredible voices will never be heard because of where they were born. As the back of my book states: TALENT IS DISTRIBUTED EQUALLY BY GOD!
With that in mind, I wanted to tell a story of a downtrodden and forgotten man of society who had a hidden talent. Thus the beginning of Moses the Singer.
The second idea comes out of my eleven years teaching at an international school in the wonderful tropical island of Penang, Malaysia. I worked with many talented teens over the years, so I decided to use that backdrop of island life and teen musicians from a local school to combine with my first idea.
These two ideas are the backbone of the story: Justice for the downtrodden, music for the masses.
This is my first Young Adult book, and I had a blast writing it — especially trying to figure out the banter between the teens. I hope I nailed it.
It’s a fun, tragic, yet uplifting story. I hope you’ll give it a try. Available from July 1st in Kindle and paperback.
EARLY PRAISE FOR Moses the Singer:
“If you’re looking for a feel-good read that will help you believe in humanity once again, make “Moses, the Singer,” that book.” – Author Colleen Chesebro
“Sasse manages to pen a masterful tale filled with many unexpected twists and turns which is sure to please a wide reading audience. He skillfully demonstrates the art of kindness and compassion combined with determination to positively affect the lives of the less fortunate people in our world. Very touching novel!” – inspirational author Dolores Ayotte
“The story takes the reader on a journey through numerous emotions. Grab a tissue to blot your tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Highly recommend.” – Reviewer L. Denn
As I stated in my previous post: Moses The Singer EXCERPT 1: First Beginning, my new novel releasing July 1 is at first told from two perspectives. First by a group of talented teen musicians (Excerpt 1) and second by Musa “Moses” Marbun. When the two stories converge, everything changes.
In this excerpt, we get to see the tragedy that occurred which brings Musa to the island of Penang.
He stood five-foot-two from the top of his forehead with his chin held high—short enough to lean against the side of the boat without any of his wiry hairs sticking over the edge. Twenty people crowded in a space that would have made ten sardines uncomfortable. A man’s elbow wedged into the side of his neck. A woman holding a crying infant straddled across half his lap on the opposite side. He shifted his legs in constant motion to ward off fatigue from the two others who had come to rest on his bony legs by no will of their own. The boat rocked on the waves, causing many episodes of voluminous vomiting from the souls trapped under the harsh moon of midnight. He wished for pitch blackness, so he couldn’t see their expressions. But the moonlight played its cruel tricks and exposed the true emotions of the weary travelers. He moved his neck away from the elbow of a man as the woman on his other side couldn’t hold it any longer and threw up across his face. He lifted his arm out of the human traps surrounding him and shimmied it high enough to wipe the vomit from around his mouth. But it didn’t prevent the taste from seeping into his lips. He did all he could to stop himself from joining the grotesque scene. He closed his eyes and waited. What he waited for wasn’t important. What could be worse?
Seven hours. His body cramped in several locations. He had fallen asleep for a time, which coincided with the infant’s lungs finally exhausting themselves to such a degree that the child itself fell asleep. So did the mother. So did he. A loud voice stirred him from his restless slumber. He glimpsed over the edge of the boat at a few flickering lights in the distance. They had neared the shore. But the two men at the helm argued. Violent words. Panic amongst the cowered passengers ensued. He pulsed upward for a second look, and that’s when he heard the engine approaching. “You’re in violation of our sovereign waters.” Lights flashed. An alarm sounded. Additional claims of rights and ownership echoed from the approaching boat, which prompted a first person to jump into the water. Someone screamed. A large shot trailed across the sky. The entire boat shifted back with the men at the helm yelling for everyone to stay down. But no one listened. A rising sensation. A quick shift. Bodies tumbled on top of each other. The side of the boat lifted into the air, expelling body upon body into the dark waters until it was complete. The boat capsized and trapped many under its turned-over belly. Darkness encompassed him as he sank. He looked once at the faint glimpses of skin and bones falling below him. He gasped and hit his head on the edge of the boat, ripping open the side of his cheek. It would have been easier not to fight it anymore—to glide slowly into the deep. But the light had not yet faded, not at the young age of twenty-two, so he dove under the edge and around three bodies next to him, reaching upward towards the light and the chaos above. He broke through the surface into the air and flailed his arms and pumped his chest for breath once more. “Help,” he cried in his native Batak language. No one heard him over the roar of the engine and the panicked voices of the few remaining on the surface. The loudspeaker continued to announce its presence. “Help,” he called again. He had never swum in his life, so he clung his fingers to the edge of the turned-over boat and waited. They grabbed him and plopped him over the side of the railing and onto the deck as he panted for air and laid flat on his back. Blood dripped down his left cheek, and a drenched shredded rag clung to his body like the initial layer of mummified cloth. No one spoke to him or even looked at him. He rested in the open space on the deck of the ship and noticed three others on his right as weary as himself. The rest had vanished into the place that no one imagines. Gone. He looked straight into the sky. A flag with a crescent moon, a sun, and red and white stripes fluttered above him. He mumbled a few words and closed his eyes.
They brought them ashore and placed them in a vacant room with cement walls and a fluorescent light illuminating a wooden door. They didn’t bother searching him for identification. He had no possessions on him other than the ragged clothing—thin cut-offs for pants with nothing underneath—a ripped shirt that showed a large burn scar across his chest. He wasn’t only short, but also thin, gaunt. His ribs revealed themselves on each side. The blood had ceased to drip from his dark-skinned cheek. He asked for water, but no one paid attention to him or the three others. The room had no windows. The stale air hung thick and humid like a second layer of wet clothes. Nothing dried, so he sat in the dampness and waited. Hours passed. They put all four of them in the back of a truck—open air yet caged in with wire-netting on all sides of the frame. His clothes had dried, but he hadn’t been given anything to eat or drink for hours. His pasty mouth clicked when he moved it. Nobody talked. The seventeen missing souls did the talking for them. Dawn broke through the dark-grey shroud of night as they cruised along a modern divided highway. After an hour, they exited and weaved through the early morning traffic until they stopped in front of a detention center. They separated him from the others and placed him in a blank room, stripped him of his rags, and gave him a light blue cotton pullover shirt with matching pants. They spoke, but not to him. The words swirled around him like a strong wind that turned his head in every direction and left him nothing but confused. One man grabbed his arm and placed his right fingers one at a time on an ink pad and blotted his prints on a square cardboard stock. They spoke again, but he gazed in silence into the wall. One took him by the shoulders and pushed him into a molded plastic chair and left him alone. Again. And he waited. Thirty minutes passed when a man in a blue decorated uniform, with a badge hanging off his left side, entered with a woman, also wearing a suit. She wore a hijab over her head. She spoke words he could understand, and he glanced at her and provided the answer to her question. “Musa. I am Musa Marbun.”
Moses the Singer, my brand new YA novel set to release on July 1, has two beginnings. The first part of the novel is told from two different point of views. First, there’s the story of four talented teen musicians as they plan to win their school’s talent show. The second part is about Musa “Moses” Marbun, a destitute and country-less old man living a meager and marginalized existence on the island of Penang. Then the stories merge.
I’d like to share both beginnings with you. The novel will be available in Kindle and paperback starting July 1. Kindle pre-orders are being taken now!
EXCERPT 1 – CHAPTER 1 YOU SUCK – In this chapter, you get to meet the bantering Will & Sanchez who have been playing music together for years.
The patio door whipped open and startled the two teens sitting on upside-down white paint buckets—papers with lyrics and chords strewn on top of a plastic table in front of them. “Enough. Please. Will, you’re killing me.” The teen lowered the six-string into his lap. Behind him, two yellow palms towered in ceramic pots. “I’m just trying to get this song down.” Will’s father tapped his clenched fist on the glass door. “Isn’t it obvious? That song is not going down, and if it does, it’s going to be regurgitated back up.” “All right, Dad. Jeez.” “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get some sleep.” Sanchez, at Will’s left holding his fretless bass, glanced over at Will’s father. “Will the killer. That’s what I call him.” “Shut up,” snapped Will. “You’re killing this song. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.” “Boy, you two are really supportive.” Will stood up and hit his knee on the side of the table, knocking several pages onto the patio stone. “Why don’t you guys wrap it up, okay?” shouted the perturbed father. “All right. But did you hear my singing?” “Who couldn’t hear your singing?” “Sanchez thinks we need another singer.” Sanchez waved his hands in the air and blurted the honest truth as clearly as humanly possible. “Dude, you suck.” “Why is everyone attacking me?” Will threw his left arm into the air, his right still grasping the neck of the guitar. “Because it’s 2 A.M. and your screeching is keeping all the night critters from their work. And my nighttime work is sawing logs so I can do actual work in the morning. That’s what I do. I work to support your garage band habits.” “But Dad … just listen to one thing.” Sanchez along with Will’s dad lowered their heads in synchronous agony. “Come on, just give me a second.” Will returned to the upside-down paint bucket, lowered his hands on the fretboard, and plucked out a series of notes clear and melodic—a beautiful sonic moment, until his mouth opened and inserted a strand of battle-weary notes which had been ripped to shreds by the Muse—the sage protector of all melodic harmony. Sanchez put his hands over his ears and mumbled, “It’s been like this all evening.” He put down his bass and snapped open his case. Will’s dad stepped a foot out onto the patio. “Will, listen to me.” Will stopped playing, which allowed the creatures in the neighborhood to catch their breath. “You’re a terrific guitar player. Really, I’m amazed at what you can do. But you’ve got a disease, and you need to admit it.” “A disease?” “Yes, it’s called the Kerry Livgren syndrome.” “There’s a name for this?” inquired Sanchez, clasping the buckles on his case close. “Kerry Livgren. Master composer, guitar player, musician extraordinaire of the classic rock band Kansas?” Both boys stared into the blank night with confused looks. “You know, ‘Dust in the Wind,’ ‘Carry on Wayward Son’?” “Dad, do you have a point?” “Yes, Kerry Livgren was a musical wizard, but he couldn’t sing a lick. Or as Sanchez stated so eloquently, his voice sucked!” “What are you trying to say?” Will’s dad used his left index finger to point at the place between his eyebrows several times. He seemed to be rubbing out the rough edges of his stress-induced midnight headache. “You need to find a new singer.” “That’s what I’ve been telling him for a year,” chimed Sanchez. “But—” “And go to bed. Do the latter, first.” “I’ll catch you later, Will. Good night, Mr. Jennings.” “Good night, Sanchez,” offered Will’s dad. Will, guitar in hand, walked past his dad standing in the sliding glass doorway. “Good night, Will.” “I’m still a little angry at you,” moaned the guitar player. “The sheep over my bed feel the same way. I guess we’re even.”