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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.

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“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.

Batter up! THE LOST LINEUP on pre-order.

The editing process is over. (But it is really ever over?) The formatting complete. Thirteen months since the release of A Diamond for Her, the sequel and book 2 of the Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses is in pre-order. It’s set to release on Kindle and Paperback on July 1, 2022.

As I had mentioned before, I always wanted to write a baseball book in the vein of WP Kinsella, so now that I’ve written two of them, and WP Kinsella is an actual character in the sequel, I’m beyond happy! It’s turned out better than I hoped. I had so much fun writing this quirky story with intrigue, adventure, and absolute hilarity — all around the greatest sport ever.

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book. It’s true! I’ve heard from many who thoroughly enjoyed it without following baseball. But if you do like baseball, I hope you feel like you’ve dripped yourself in the pool of nostalgia.

The Lost Lineup Kindle ebook pre-order:

Novels 11 & 12 Releasing in 2022

It’s official. This will be the first year I’ve ever released two novels in one year. I’ve been remarkedly steady since I began publishing in 2012 – one novel a year. I believed the trend would continue. I finished my 11th novel on writing trip to Tbilisi back in late October. It’s the sequel of my baseball series: Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses. This one is entitled The Lost Lineup.

I had no inkling what the next story would be. I was busy doing the final edits of the book over the Christmas holiday when it hit me: I should write a Christmas novel. People love to read Christmas books. I had previously published three Christmas short stories and thought it might be fun to try a novel-length Christmas story. But what about?

I often head back to history for ideas and I thought of a simple premise: a nine-year-old girl finds out that her father was killed in WWII on Christmas Eve 1944. The book would be about how the girl processed the death until the next Christmas – thus the title would be Christmas in ’45. Okay, I had the idea. Now would I have the time to write?

Well, on March 27, I finished the first complete draft of this novel. Novel #12. It’s a short novel, my shortest, but I kept it short on purpose because of how I only told the story from the girl’s perspective. I’ll write more about that process on a later post, but I’m really happy how this challenging story turned out, and I decided that it will release on October 1, 2022.

Lots of fun to look forward to in the coming months as I prepare these novels for release. The Lost Lineup is currently with my editor, and I should have the edited version ready soon. Then ARCs will be sent out as I continue to hone my Christmas story.

Stay tuned! 2022 is going to be a great year.

Verdi’s NABUCCO – and on Never Giving Up

I had the rare privilege to attend the marvelous opera Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi at the fabulous Tbilisi Opera House. It’s one of those old world European style stunners of a place as you’ll see from some of my photos of the evening. Nabucco is about the story of King Nebuchadnezzar from the book of Jeremiah. It was presented by the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre. A remarkable fact is that this opera company first produced Nabucco for their 1859-1860 season. The American Civil War hadn’t even begun yet. And here I am, in 2022, coming out of two years of pandemic enjoying this Verdi masterpiece in a truly remarkable place.

A few notes from my programme caught my eye. Nabucco was Verdi’s third opera. His second one was a failure and he was determined to never write operas again. How many writers and composers have been there? It took him five months to be convinced to take the libretto and try to compose for it. In his own words, “I took it home, and threw it on the table violently …” He was not optimistic. He persevered and composed it, and it became “a real watershed in Verdi’s creative life.” Again in his own words, Verdi writes, “My real artistic career started with this opera. And though I had many difficulties to fight with, one thing is certain, Nabucco was indeed born under a lucky star.”

And there you have it from an opera master. You do need talent. You do need perseverance. But even that sometimes isn’t enough. You sometimes need a lucky star to help the writer break out to career success. But the thing to remember is this: without the perseverance, the lucky star would not have appeared.

I was encouraged by these words and inspired by this opera. It’s a joy to see opera and ballet troupes still performing these classics and please try to support it whenever you can. You never know, you might just get inspired to compose something under your lucky star.

W.P. Kinsella & My 11th Novel

I emailed my manuscript of my 11th novel off to my editor yesterday. That’s always a momentous day! It’s entitled THE LOST LINEUP and it’s Book 2 of Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses. Have no idea if there will ever be a book three. No plans at the moment, but then again, I had no plans on writing a sequel to A DIAMOND FOR HER (book 1) until I was finished writing it. The genesis of book 2 is in the person of deceased Canadian author W.P. Kinsella – best known for his novel SHOELESS JOE which was filmed as the classic 1989 film FIELD OF DREAMS.

I had been an admirer of Kinsella’s writing, having read another of his baseball novels THE IOWA BASEBALL CONFEDERACY. It was the mystical and magical realism that I loved. Baseball to me had always risen above the mundane. There was something magical about it. When I used to pitch, and I stood on the mound and stared down the opponent, I felt something deep within me that seemed right. A settledness – even if the big bruiser lined a rocket off my shines. It was still meant to be.

When I started writing novels, I always knew that I wanted to write a baseball novel one day, and I knew that Kinsella would be an influence. What I didn’t know is that W.P. Kinsella himself would end up as one of the characters in my novel.

In the novel, Kinsella is the brash, no-nonsense caretaker of the game who is protecting it from historical evil forces. Can’t give too much away. The protagonist, Charles Henry, who is the literary author of the books – it’s written in the style that the protagonist is writing a memoir of his favorite team the Winasook Iron Horses – and as he is searching for clues to a certain field in Iowa which may possibly be a portal to the gods of baseball – yeah, it’s a crazy ride – his path crosses with Kinsella and they have a series of run-ins as they discover a lineup of forgotten historical players who want one more chance to play again.

I must say, however, that I have fallen in love with this Kinsella character, and it is my hope that he would have enjoyed his character’s role in this novel. If it was a movie, his character would be a hoot to play. What gave me the idea to use Kinsella was Kinsella himself. In SHOELESS JOE, he used J.D. Salinger as a character, so I thought it would be fun to pay a little homage to the idea and bring Kinsella himself into the story. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

It’s a mixture of adventure, thriller, magical realism, fantasy, and sports fiction.

Releasing summer 2022: THE LOST LINEUP.

Here is the exclusive, unedited foreword to the novel written by the protagonist Charles Henry. Enjoy:

I regret it has taken me so long to write a follow-up to the Raymond and Rochelle Blythe’s story. What I expected to have taken mere months, especially after finding a copy of W.P. Kinsella’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy at the Rochelle Blythe Memorial Library in Winasook, has taken me years. There are reasons, the biggest being the death of my wife merely two weeks after the publication of A Diamond for Her. I had wallowed in her death for far too long (or perhaps not long enough) when I decided I needed a change. That’s when I left for Iowa.
What ensued became this book. It is difficult to articulate everything that has happened to me or even to conjecture the meaning of it all, but I will attempt, chapter by chapter, to explain the bizarre tale.
I don’t ask for your belief. That would be silly of me. But I do ask for your understanding, for in empathy we may all glide a step further towards the truth (hopefully, without over-sliding it).
Again, the shifts in point of view are meant for your reading enjoyment. Plus, I do want to distance myself from the story as much as possible, because it is not about me. Except in the sense that it is about all of us.
With earnest in the mythical properties of ball,

Charles “Shoeshine” Henry
Winasook, Pennsylvania
May 1989

What Makes a Second-Rate Movie Second-Rate?

Flew home today. 11 hours. Means two things: I’m gonna be tired for the next week, and I had to endure a string of probably-not-great movies. The final film I chose to watch today was a 2021 western from Lionsgate titled “Catch the Bullet.” It was not great. It wasn’t even very good. I watched the whole thing. Thus, the life of a traveller. At least it scored me a blog post.

What is it about a movie that makes it second-rate? The acting? The story? The filming? The music? It can be all of the above. It was the acting which caught my eye (not in a good way) right at the beginning of the film. What makes acting bad or at least not good? It’s not always obvious right away. There’s a very subtle line between believable and not believable acting. After the first words of the film were spoken, I could tell there was something off. The intonation not right. The facial expressions flat. These were, for the most part, actors who would never make it into a big budget film. They had limited range and they were showing it off. The most well-known actor in the group was Tom Skerritt. Skerrit is a good actor, no doubt, but he wasn’t given much in the way of dialogue to show off his chops much.

The story? Cliched. I often wondered what the point of the movie was. Nothing original going on here. It could have been a ’50s B-movie western and it would have fit right in. A marshal’s son was kidnapped and I didn’t feel much of anything for either of them. I’m a sucker for an emotional film – especially involving children, but this was just flat. Why couldn’t they have contacted, for example, Mark Sasse and said: “Hey, Sasse, can you do something with this script for us?” I would have been delighted. Maybe could have even given it a theatrical release instead of straight to VOD. Yes, I’m that confident that I could have improved it. There was nothing much likable about any character, and the actors kept doing stupid things that seemed unrealistic. But my dark-pouched eyes watched every second of it. Couldn’t look away.

The filming? The Indian attack scenes were ridiculous. So simplistic. They didn’t even look like real native Americans, but I couldn’t tell for sure since the Indians all died very quickly without much fuss. For being excellent trackers and knowing the land like none other, they were not good at hiding from gunshots. It was like: I will stand up from this rock so he can shoot me. And he did.

But for me, the most cringe-worth part of this movie was the music. I pondered it this evening, and this movie made me create a movie-score rule of thumb, which I had never thought of before. The score of a movie shouldn’t set the tone of the film. It should accentuate the tone of the film. The film’s tone should come from the acting and the style of filming, and the music should add needed depth and warmth to it. But that’s not how this movie’s score played out. The music was so obvious that it was telling the audience directly what they should be feeling and what was coming. The music didn’t seem to be created specifically for this film. It seemed like stock music that was plugged in without much afterthought. When a viewer spends much of a film critiquing its music rather than the story, well, there’s a problem on the prairie. Call the marshal and arrest these film imposters! They are WANTED for poor film-making.

There are many facets which can make a movie second-rate, and “Catch the Bullet” had them all.