Finally – Christmas Drama Collection Coming in 2019

I love writing Christmas plays, and I’ve written thirty of them over the last few years — including a couple Christmas mini-musicals.

Now, finally, I’m going to be pushing hard over the next few months to get them out into the marketplace.

Tales of Wonder is a three-part series of full-length Christmas shows which premiered at the Penang Performing Arts Centre from December 2015 through December 2017.

The collection is a mix of secular and sacred, silly and serious. I had so much fun producing two of these shows. There’s something about the Christmas season which lends itself extremely well to the dramatic arts. There’s no greater time to focus in on family-drama with societal implications.

I love this collection and I’m super excited to finally getting this project off the ground. These shows (or individual sketches) are great for a variety of settings such as community theater, schools (both public and private), and churches.

I’ll keep everyone updated on the project’s progress. Hope to have them out by spring so folks thinking about Christmas shows will have plenty of time to prepare for something truly special.

Oh, and I even have a first-draft mock-up of the book’s cover.  Let me know what you think!

front cover Tales of Wonder


If It’s a Fad, It’s Not a Lifestyle

A few years back I was getting a check-up at the doctor’s office. Weight-wise, I was not where I wanted to be at that particular moment, and she spoke the truth to me: “You have to do the hard work.” In other words, you aren’t going to lose weight without making the right choices, without being disciplined, without making sacrifices.  No-one can do it for you!

Boy, we hate to think that the things we want require hard work. Let me win the lottery! Surely an agent will discover my talent! World, please. Notice how awesome I am. Make it easy for me!

Ah, no.

You want to get into a top-flight college? Hard work.

You want to write a novel? Hard work.

You want to be a movie star? Hard work.

You want to lose weight? Hard work.

But here’s the difference between something being a fad and being a lifestyle. We all put hard work into particular things at certain times in our lives. I remember a particular diet I was on in 2005. I put in the hard work. I achieved the success I wanted. Then I stopped putting in the hard work. You can imagine the results. My fad faded. And my waistline, well, … yeah.

Same with writing. How many people are enthusiastic to write their first novel? They work and work and possibly even get it done, but when instant world-wide fame isn’t bestowed on them, they move on and never write again.

Hard work is needed. But sustained hard work, over years, without giving up, even in the face of little success or many unpleasant bumps in the road — in other words GRIT – is the only way that your hard work season becomes your hard work lifestyle.

I wasn’t ready to listen to that doctor about a decade ago. But more recently, her words are sinking in.

In 2002, when I started my first great novel, I wasn’t ready to make a lifestyle change and become a writer. I put in a minimal amount of hard work and abandoned it. It took another ten years before I was ready to put in the hard work of being an author for the long haul.

You aren’t going to reach your goals overnight. Or in a month. Or maybe not in a year. But much is achievable with a steady hand on the plow, ignoring the criticism, pushing back the doubts, and keeping your eyes straight ahead on what’s important to you.

Only you can do the hard work.

Are you ready for it?

The Relativistic Chuckle of the Week

Did you see this one? A 69-year-old Dutch man is suing to legally change his age to 49.  This is not on the Babylon Bee or The Onion where it seems more fitting. Some of the gems which come out of the article include how he feels discriminated against when trying to find work or trying to hook-up with someone on the dating app Tinder.

Quote: “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?”

Just let that one stew for a while.

I don’t fault this man at all. I applaud his creativity, actually. What, I believe, gets the biggest chuckle is the fact that the court will rule on this within the next four weeks.

Let me say that again: the courts will rule on this.

What’s puzzling is that the court didn’t immediately toss it out as frivolous. Do they not have more pressing legal issues than ruling whether by legal decree that a court has the authority to countermand 20 revolutions of the sun? Talk about pretentiousness! What kind of a court do they think they have?

Here’s one maybe I’ll see in my realm one day. Let’s say a student comes to me and says that he or she will not accept the 69% they earned on their test. That number is discriminatory, they might say. That number doesn’t reflect their actual ability. They could have done better if they studied more, so therefore I am judging their knowledge and habits, not their potential knowledge or their actual intelligence. That number is discriminatory because some universities will think that they don’t belong at their school. A poor grade might prevent them from getting a job. They might be looked down as being unintelligent and another might not want to date them because of it. “Shouldn’t I be able to choose my own grade? Who are you, Mr. Teacher, to judge me?” they might ask.

How might a teacher respond? “I’ll have a ruling within four weeks.”

Yeah, for some reason, I don’t think that would fly.

I wish the man all the best in trying to get the most out of life. Your age is how you feel. Who cares what your birth certificate says.

Ahhh – more fodder for writing. There is never a lack of clever twists.

“Miss, it’s raining. Now what?”

“Miss, it’s raining. Now what?”

This is a curious phrase I heard yesterday. What do you suppose the context was? Is rain going to ruin an outdoor event? A picnic, perhaps. Or a sporting event.

No. It couldn’t be.

How do I know that this question could not refer to that type of situation?

Because it was asked in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia while a noticeably light rain came gently from the sky. A question like that points to one issue and one issue alone: when one lives in the dessert, RAIN is a big, concerning deal!

Let me describe a comparable situation so you’ll begin to understand what rain means in Jeddah. I grew up in PA and lived in upstate New York for many years. I know what snow is. Then I moved to Virginia, I learned that they don’t know what snow is.  The lightest of dustings would cancel all events for the day. Schools would close. Churches would close. Panic would ensue. It was a cultural experience to say the least.

Here’s two snow examples that this northern person couldn’t rap my head around. One early morning in Virginia, we get a call from the school administration to inform us that there will be no school that day because of the snow. Okay. Fine. Morning arrives, there’s no snow. The roads are bare. I mean, dry. Pavement. That is all. And there’s no school because apparently dry pavement is dangerous to drive on. So we, on our day off, drove through the treacherous roads (dry, mind you) to the cinema forty-five minutes away and had a nice family day.

The second anecdote is similar. One early Sunday morning in Virginia, we head off to church – another 45 minute drive (we lived in the boondocks). The roads on the way to church were dry. As in no snow.  (see example above) We arrive at church to find that church was cancelled on the account of snow which didn’t exist. So we went out for breakfast. The restaurant was empty. The non-snow kept everyone away.

Now back to Jeddah. It was the middle of the school day yesterday, and we hear a strange noise in the sky – thunder! Everyone is excited. We peek outside and there is some wetness from the sky. A light sprinkle. I hear a student walk up to a teacher  and with a very concerned voice asks: “Miss, it’s raining. Now what?”

Within an hour of the sprinkles, one hundred kids were picked up by their parents and brought home early. By noon, it was sunny. As in no rain. It was a beautiful day. As the beauty of the day ensued, reports pulled in from many other local schools which indicated that they closed early for the day. Because, I suppose, it was sunny after it sprinkled.

(Now, if I can put aside my snarkiness for a moment, to be fair, Jeddah has no drainage. So if it does rain hard, it can flood quickly. And in Virginia, they don’t understand how to remove snow from the roads. So if it does snow hard, people can be stranded quickly.)

So I’ve learned over the years that weather and culture and location can have a great bearing on a great many things. It can drive a student to the point of questioning how school could possibly continue if a drop of rain is falling from the sky.

NOTE: I’ll leave you with a photo. This is a real photograph – not edited – that shows the downpour of Jeddah. Notice the glistening on the walk. That’s called wetness.)P_20181030_091124


A Student of Mine is a Columnist at Arab News

I have a student. His name is Sami. He’s a go-getter.

Last year, he was a stabilizing force on my theatre tech team.

This year, he is my improv partner, as he pops into my room during break and we do these quite creative improv sessions which are funny and enjoyable.

He signed on to be the producer/manager of my upcoming black box experimental piece.

He is an actor who will be in my future productions. No doubt.

He’s the type of kid you love to pick on simply because you love having him around.

Oh, and this eighteen-year-old is also a columnist at Arab News.

Yeah, pretty cool stuff. A couple weeks ago, he sent me an article he was writing and I gave him a few pointers. He goes off and sends it to Arab News who sent him a contract to be one of their opinion columnists.

How awesome is that?

His first piece “Sheltering Children from the Real World Only prepares them for Failure” was just published.

Check out this ARAB NEWS LINK to read it for himself.

Congrats, Sami. Well done!

Now get my show ready!

How to Build a Dictator 2.0

Two years ago I debuted an experimental theatre piece of mine entitled “How to Build a Dictator.” It was directed by my talented former student and theatre wizard Ysabel Loh and it was part of the Penang Performing Arts Centre Black Box Experiments series. It was tremendously fun to put on. We had a great audience and they reacted wonderfully to this unique audience-interactive show.

Now, I’m introducing “How to Build a Dictator 2.0” I start production on it this weekend with a completely revamped script I just finished writing. It’s 25% longer with even more insane stuff happening which will completely confuse (and hopefully amuse) the audience. I held auditions for it last Sunday and I have a dozen great actors ready to roll on this, though they have NO idea what they are actually getting themselves into. And that’s the beauty of it.

I haven’t had a show since April, so it feels good to get working on one. I’ll be sure to post many updates as we go along and get closer to the show dates of early December. But for now, I’ll leave with our mock-up poster – courtesy of Ysabel Loh who designed this for the first dictator show. I feel like the design is set in stone. This is the branding for this show. So here we go. Let the fun begin. dictatorPOSTER.jpg

Even Writers Need a Day Off

I have a three day weekend from my day job. This typically means that I’m burning the midnight oil with all types of writing projects, trying to take advantage of the extra time to concentrate on plot twists and dialogue and all the other important things in life.

But today, no.

I don’t know why. It’s been the most non-productive writing day of my life.

I can’t even process what I actually did today. Now it’s 6:38 in the evening and what have I accomplished?

I took a walk this morning. Music attached to my ears. It was nice.

I ironed my shirts. Something I rarely do. What’s going on here?

I cooked some lunch.

I transferred music from the cloud onto my phone.

I spent too much time scrolling through my Facebook feed.

I took out the trash.

I didn’t have one writing thought today. No creativity whatsoever. It was just one plain old nothing.

And you know what? I think I needed it.

We all need down time, and perhaps, writers need it more than most. The brain that is typically swimming in a thousand directions doesn’t mind sitting as a toad staring mindless into a stream, focused more on the skimmer on the surface than the indigo blue overhead.

A little mindless me time might just be what I need to get back at it tomorrow.

So whatever you do in life, take a day, at some point, and do nothing.

Then be ready to get at it tomorrow.

(Now would you look at this. I just wrote a blog post about doing nothing on the day I did nothing. So does that mean I actually did something? Hmmm.)