Actors…who needs ’em?

Funny thing about writing, the more one’s storytelling plucks at some chord of truth, whether that truth is soulfully soothing or discordantly jarring, the more the reader can’t look away. And, like a brand new meth addict, once the writer feels that first rush of delivering some undeniable truth, however small, the search is then on, to find another, and another, bigger, more powerful, some larger truth. From smoking to snorting to mainlining, the writer is soon poking holes in every assumption ever made. And “every assumption,” by definition, must include the writer’s own. Actors were one of my assumptions.

Oh sure, some actors work pretty hard, I suppose, or so my assumptive narrative went. Yet, when we rehearsed the scenes from Face Of Our Father, my actors were the drivers, insisting on one more run-through, from the top, and then again, and again, and again. I worked hard writing my characters’s lines. My actors worked harder delivering them. As I wrote my novel, I didn’t dwell on wealth or fame, yet many authors emerge from their writing rooms to achieve both. My actors worked for free. And acting fame doesn’t come from performing the scenes of some obscure author’s novel before a few dozen people in an Indie bookstore. My actors brought professionalism, dedication, vulnerability and passion to my characters simply because they love the acting craft.

Please enjoy these admirable actors as they celebrate their craft, performing short snippets from Face Of Our Father, the micro-play. First up, actor Kevin Kennedy bringing to life protagonist Stuart Pierce, and actress Peg Tan as co-protagonist Angela Pierce, adapted from Chapter One of Face Of Our Father.

Director Paul Tan, an experienced actor himself (he played the role of Stuart Pierce during our Sundance performances), explained to me that if my actors were willing to lay it all out there, then maybe I should too. Hard to argue with that. So, here I am as the voice of the burqa-clad woman of Angie’s imaginations, adapted from Chapter Thirteen of Face Of Our Father. Observe Peg Tan’s discipline. I’m literally yelling in her ear, but she never once looks at me, instead always directing her arguments at the burqa draped over the chair.

Actor Andrew Maizner as Gramps, adapted from various chapters of Face Of Our Father. How does an author’s character sound in his mind? Precisely like Andrew.

I cannot give adequate thanks. To see the characters I’ve written come alive before my very eyes stirs feelings that exceed my every attempt to express. The word magic echoes through my mind. Dreams do come true. Stu, Angie, Gramps…they’re alive.

Actors? Who needs ’em? I do. To poke holes and burst my assumptions. To find some truths…to show me…to show us, what we were, what we are, and what we can become. Bravo, actors. Bravo…

Stream Of Consciousness Quotes:

“The more you do your homework, the more your free to be intuitive. But you’ve got to put the work in.”-Edward Norton

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action…”-Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”-Proverbs 31:8, Bible, New Living Translation

 

Am I A Feminist?

I guess I’m probably like many aging men. After growing up in a society that oozed male dominance from every institutional pore, I listened and learned, scrubbed myself free of overt sexism, and figured I scored pretty high on the feminist scale.

Paraphrasing Dr. King, I try to judge the character of every person by what they do, and not by what they look like. And I tried to teach my children that philosophy. My daughters will tell you that I never told them they were pretty while growing up. Instead, I told them they were good at reading, writing, and arithmetic, that they owned their bodies, and that they alone were responsible for their happiness.

Heck, a central theme of my novel revolves around the ravages of a human history that’s been dominated by patriarchal privilege. So, I’m good…more than good, right?

I recently stumbled upon a copy of “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Started reading. Gave myself a few pats on the old back, I sure did. Yep, I had overcome a culture of institutionalized patriarchal brainwashing, and with the help of feminists everywhere, had become one myself. Yep, I was doing just fine until page twenty-six.

I have a son. And without really trying, I realize that I taught him all the things Ms. Adichie warns about, “…to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability…” I raised my son in “…a hard, small cage….” I shaped him “…a hard man.” Don’t misunderstand me. If you met my son, you’d find him courteous and respectful, quite pleasant company. I’m very proud of him. Yet, after several hours with my son, you wouldn’t really know him, because he wears that mask Adichie writes of, a coat of armor, if you will. And he’s never going to let you close enough to discover any chinks in his armor.

So, I left page twenty-six reeling, thinking defensive thoughts like, but that’s how men survive, that’s how they thrive in this world. And perhaps there’s some truth to those thoughts. Yet, likely only true because fathers like me continue to shape hard men, who are then hard on each other, thereby perpetuating the myth of the necessity of hard men.

I stumbled toward the finish of this short book (It’s quick, read it please), thinking less and less of myself, mentally mocking my self-imagined feminism. That is, until Adichie rescued me by offering her definition of a feminist. She wrote, “My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.’”

So, yes, I am a feminist. I firmly believe that there is a problem, and that I can do better…I can offer Adichie’s book to my son, and ask him to think about raising his future son outside of that cage. And…I can offer to help. Perhaps together we can shape a man that is strong rather than just hard.

Stream of Consciousness Quotes:

“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”-Neil Armstrong

“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”-G. D. Anderson

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”-Malala Yousafzai

Is Donald Trump America’s Adolph Hitler?

First, let me begin addressing this intentionally incendiary question by extending an apology to Canada and Mexico, and all the other nations of North and South America for implying that the United States owns the trademark to the name America. After all, if Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, that does not make him Prime Minister of Canada. Yet still, I’ll offer only a small apology. Adolph Hitler was never Prime Minister of Poland, or President of France, but his appointment as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 proved nearly fatal to both nations. Similarly, a Donald Trump presidency, for good or ill, will impact the future of the Americas and the entire world.

So, is Donald Trump America’s Adolph Hitler? Of course, he isn’t. He’s just another candidate for President. And a candidate of his ilk has run in every election as long as I can remember, usually disappearing in a flash. They always supply the same thematic undercurrent for their platform. Namely, that our bad thoughts aren’t really bad thoughts at all, they’re good thoughts, it’s just that bad people are telling us so—shame on them!

I find myself stunned, not by Donald Trump, but by the success of his thematic undercurrent. Every time I hear Donald Trump speak I do not hear a future President, I hear the Gordon Ghekko character from the movie Wall Street saying “Greed is good.”

For example, Donald Trump wants to build a great big wall to hinder illegal immigration. And, like many people, I’ve seen the financial hardships wrought on family members who’ve suffered from unfair labor competition. Makes me want to do something to fix the problem. My mind wants to draw a direct line between the porous Mexican border and my family member’s financial hardship. And for a brief moment, a great big wall seems like a good idea. Keep them out!

Yet, what sort of person am I keeping out? Apparently, that great big wall will keep out men who have left their loved ones to walk across the searing hot desert southwest to pick vegetables for a few dollars a day. Has my financially-strapped family member ever picked vegetables for twelve hours a day? Ever walked across a desert for a job? Ever left their loved ones to work all day, sleep on a dirt floor and send their paycheck home to their family. And when I think of it this way, I just feel greedy. I feel like a man in a life raft who’s letting another man drown because I’m just not sure there’s enough room for the two of us. Leaving a man to drown is bad…always has been…always will be, and no amount of political rhetoric will change that.

Donald Trump appeals not to Abraham Lincoln’s “…better angels of our nature,” but instead, to the worst instincts of our selfish id. If we embrace that selfishness, will we recognize ourselves eight years from now? Will we wonder how it all came to be? Will historians point to the 2016 Presidential election and say that it was the turning point, not to a better nation, but to damnation? I hope not. I so do hope…

Stream of Consciousness Quote:

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”-Edmund Burke

Does Love Mean Never Having To Say You’re Sorry?

Of course, I’m referencing the 1970 movie, Love Story. Perhaps the most remembered line from that screenplay is “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” When I was in junior high, I bought that line. In fact, I swallowed the whole thing, hook, line, and sinker. Now, after forty years of marriage to the same amazing human, I realize what a complete load of equine excrement those words represent.

No, my advice, if you want a long, happy marriage, is say you’re sorry, often, and mean it. Swallow all that false pride and just do it. Because unless your marriage is more of a business arrangement…meaning come together for twenty years or so, raise a couple of healthy kids, then part on good terms…you need to care more than that.

You’re partner is special. And during the course of your long busy life together, you’re going to forget that fact. Guaranteed. You’re going to forget that she used to write computer code…now she writes the alphabet with your little boy. You’re going to forget that he used take long mountain bike rides across the mountains…now he walks beside your daughter as she wobbles along on training wheels. Essentially, at times, you’re going to stop seeing your partner, see how hard they are working, how much they care, how much they love. And when that happens, stop and stare, and see them again. Then take hold of their shoulders, look them in the eyes, and say “I’m sorry. You’re amazing. I see you. See that you live your life for us now. I’m so glad that you’re in my life. And I’m so sorry that I don’t tell you that every day.”

Right now, you’re probably asking yourself, what is this all about? Simple. In my very first blog, my welcome blog, I promised that I’d post, on or about, every full moon. January’s full moon came and went without a single word from me. Not even a quick “Hello, I’m so busy that I’m skipping this month.” And I want to have a long meaningful relationship with my readers. So, “I’m sorry. You’re amazing. I see you. See that you took time from your busy lives to read my novel, pondered the questions I raised, and have visited my blog for more. I’m glad that you’re in my life. And I’m so sorry that I didn’t post in January.”

My January was a month of extremes…sadness and joy…family and friends. The sadness concerned family challenges, the kind that have no solutions, the sort that must simply be endured with great love. The joy…my friends…the magnificence of their efforts on my behalf truly remarkable.

I pursued a serendipitous opportunity during this January’s Sundance Film Festival…live performances of crucial scenes from my novel. But never mind that…I’ll post much more about that over the next few months. By far, the most important take away from that whole crazy Sundance Film Festival experience is that I have remarkable friends. Without them, Sundance would have never happened. I see them. They are amazing. And if I forgot to personally say “Thank you,” to any one of you, then please forgive me, and “I’m sorry.”

Stream of Consciousness Quote:

“Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise.”-H. G. Wells

The 12 Blogs Of Indie Christmas

Merry Christmas!

There’s a full moon tonight. Somehow, that perfect balance, a warm sun all day, a bright moon all night, the continual light of Christmas, seems exactly what the world most needs right now…

Below you’ll find direct links to my twelve favorite blog posts from the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop. Hard to narrow them down. But for me, my final selections are a combination of Christmas from around the world and the historical origins of our traditions.

And Martin Crosbie seems the ideal way to start off my 12 Blogs Of Indie Christmas with his blog about Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

“‘God bless us, every one!’ said Tiny Tim…” No matter one’s perception of God, may the warmth of Tiny Tim’s wish comfort us all…

Martin Crosbie

R.A.R. Clouston

Helen Hollick

Cheri Gillard

Derek Birks

Lorraine Devon Wilke

Valerie Biel

Martha Kennedy

Debrah Martin

Cassi Clark

Prue Batten

V.L. Thurman

Stream of Consciousness Quote:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop

ALL-ABOARD-with-medallion

What is Christmas?

From toddler toys to mistletoe kisses to picking out that first tree and hanging baby’s ornament, the brightest moments of bygone Decembers flicker through our minds, each one another warm reminder of how far we’ve come, and how much our perception of Christmas has changed. We grow from receiving to giving, and eventually learn that the only thing we really have to give is the gift of self. And we also learn that sometimes…we aren’t enough.

Well past the age of toys and mistletoe kisses and that first tree, our youngest daughter came and told us the happy news. She was ready to have a baby. My wife cried. I blinked a lot. After all, she was the daughter that wasn’t really sure she ever wanted to be a mother.

That Christmas season was pure fun with heaping piles of fluffy white snow brightening the short days and crackling fires warming the long nights. And lots of fanciful speculations. Would our next grandchild have red hair like his father or blonde like our daughter? Boy or girl? Tall or short? Calm or boisterous? Of course, none of that really mattered. We knew one thing for sure. The child would be beautiful.

The snow soon melted. Purple crocuses sprouted, followed by tall daffodils, and long telephone conversations that always ended with my wife saying, “Sometimes it takes a while, honey. Be patient.” The long days of summer came accompanied by even longer phone calls. “Are you checking your temperature? Have you two been tested?”

The snow returned, and the fire crackled, but that Christmas was less fun, marred by quiet quarrels. Usually, because I asked one question too many, or said something too positive, too hopeful, essentially, too clueless.

As the piles of snow shrunk, so did the length of the phone calls. And every parent of adult children knows what comes next. Silence. The problem might be the tenth job interview, or the twelfth law school application, or the next grandchild, but the solution remains the same, the parent simply must stop asking. Because every question, no matter how gentle, becomes another reminder of something that may never happen, of life that isn’t fair, of a beautiful child that might never be.

As Christmas approached, we decided that our daughter deserved complete and utter silence. And yet, that silence seemed impossible for me to give. Because I wanted to hold my baby girl’s hand, and kiss her forehead, and tell her that it didn’t matter, that she was complete, and beautiful, and perfect, all by herself.

But the impossible is exactly what we gave. No one asked. No one offered. My wife and I hugged a lot. Yet Christmas was fun again. More than fun. Our daughter seemed truly happy. The gift of silence had worked. And Christmas morning was perfect, with all of our children and grandchildren sitting in front of the fireplace, everyone opening presents. As my wife unwrapped another gift, I took a moment and studied my daughter’s face. She was beaming, almost glowing it seemed, and I was so proud of what we’d done for her. Inside the box, my wife found a Christmas card, and inside that card was our daughter’s gift—a sonogram of our new grandchild.

So…. What is Christmas? For my wife and I…forevermore…Christmas is life.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our wonderful son-in-law caught the moment.

The card:
Image 2

Our embarrassing reactions:
Image 2

And I mean embarrassing! Check out these close-ups.
Image 2
Image 2
Embarrassing but true, and truth is all a writer really has. So I have to include these ridiculous faces.

Here’s the sonogram that caused those faces:
Image 4
Only .71 cm!

And months later we got a wave from our new grandson:
IMG_3019
Like I mentioned above. For us, forevermore… Christmas is life!

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Your next train stop on the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop is with Indie author, Martin Crosbie, December 2nd. Just click this link, Martin Crosbie, for your next Yuletide tale.

If you wander off the train, you can always hop back aboard and catch up by going to the indieBRAG home page. Simply click this link, indieBRAG, where you’ll find a message from the indieBRAG Team welcoming you back, as well as the entire Christmas Blog Hop schedule.

Cant’t wait? Still need a bit more holiday cheer today? Check out my September blog entitled Who Needs a Hug? It’s technically not a holiday blog, but it sure made me feel like Christmas came early.

Stream of Consciousness Quote:

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”-Norman Vincent Peale

Should Author’s Feel Thankful?

Like most whom fate has smiled upon, it’s very easy for me to feel thankful on this Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for my family, my friends, my nation, my rich full life. I’ve lived a charmed existence, beyond the hope of many on this earth, never really fearing for lack of food, clothing or shelter.

Yet, should the author in me feel thankful? If one listens to the old guard of the literary world, the answer is a resounding “No.” To support this assertion, the publishing gatekeepers cite cold hard facts. More novels were published this year than ever before in the history of mankind. And that record number will be shattered next year, and next year’s record crushed by the following year. Agents are pickier than ever, selecting very few authors to represent. And the publishers don’t lay out how they’re going to sell their new authors’ novels, they ask the new authors what they are going to do to market their novels. And if the new author gets past all that, the average novel sells a few thousand copies. After deducting the agent’s commission and the publisher’s cut, the author is lucky to make a few pennies per hour of writing.

But the old guard has forgotten the whole point. First and foremost, writing is a search, a quest for some truth to tell. And in the very best writing, that quest often takes a toll, the seeker forced to turn inward, the journey becoming one of self-discovery, the writer forever changed by the writing. And the journey continues long after the truth telling is done, as readers question and challenge and test the author’s truths. Readers are what writers want, not agents and publishers.

Fifty years ago, a writer might spend ten years crafting a story only to have the gatekeepers, that old guard of agents and publishers deem it unworthy, the author’s hard won truths remaining forever unread. But today, a writer can publish an eBook for a few cents, produce a paperback for a few dollars more. Every author can easily share the truths they’ve written.

So welcome to the great age of publishing, not the age of Shakespeare or Shelly, not the time of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but right now. And despite the old guard’s litany of cold, hard, publishing facts, the author in me answers “Yes,” I am thankful on this Thanksgiving. So very thankful.

Stream of Consciousness Quote:

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”-Albert Schweitzer

Hate?

Paris? Yes, after last night, like most of you, I am angry. There’s a rage that rises within me that’s frightening. My mind flashes back to last year, when Parisians had my eyes misting with pride, as they marched in defiance of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, their mayor saying “That’s why Paris in mourning today told the whole world that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are sacred… Sacred as the lives of those who fought for it for centuries…” And my thoughts keep going back…to a gift from the French people in 1881, our Statue Of Liberty…and even further back to Yorktown, in 1781, where Frenchmen spilt their blood on our soil for our freedom. So yes, I am filled with rage as I write this. Yet, I fight that rage, because it is a mirror, a refection of those who committed those atrocities yesterday, and because, it’s what they want. Experts in hate, they want hate, everywhere, in every place on this earth. I refuse to give them what they want. I refuse.

Stream of Consciousness Quote:

“What you spend years years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.”-Mother Teresa

BOOK REPORT?

Spoiler Alert! Do you really want to read this blog? In my early August post, I wrote that I’d warn my readers whenever I posted an excerpt. This is that warning. For those who expressed an interest in sneak peeks, what follows is from FACE OF OUR MOTHER.

“In utter blackness, Angie crawled forward, hands reaching ahead, testing, measuring, floor and wall. Smooth, warm and soft. Padded? Different from the last few days of rough, cold and hard. Different from anything since they’d taken her. How long? Certainly weeks. More than a month? Maybe. But how could she know? How could she track the days when all she ever saw was black?

The fingertips of Angie’s left hand struck a padded surface straight ahead. The first corner. With a hand on each wall, she slowly stood, awaiting the dizziness. It came. Lately, it always came. Starvation, dehydration, did that. Hunger and thirst were her life now. And the black.

She should lay still. Conserve energy. But she had to fight the darkness. Explore her new prison. Somehow, knowing a cell’s dimensions kept her crows at bay.

Her dizziness passed. She rose up on her toes and reached as high as she could. Smooth and warm and soft. Dropping to all fours, she followed the new wall, keeping careful count of each knee-stride.

Thirty-three brought her to the next corner. Spacious. Again, she rose, waited for the dizziness to pass and reached high. More smooth and warm and soft.

Along the next wall she discovered a thin vertical seam, and then another, almost as far apart as her arms could spread. A door? Why so wide?

After completing a circuit, she did another, standing this time, and then went to her hands and knees again, crisscrossing the floor until she collapsed from exhaustion. Nothing. Not a bed, table, or chair. Thirty-three knee-strides square. Two vertical seams. That was it. But, at least her crows flew away.

“All done?” an Arabic accent asked from the blackness above.

Angie didn’t answer. Screw them. So they could see her. Infrared cameras. Thermal imaging. Big deal. She wasn’t impressed.

“All done?”

“I need water,” she rasped.

“All done?”

“I need food.”

“All done?”

Angie wanted to scream, “Go to hell!” Instead, she said, “Yes, I’m done.”

Above, a sliding sound. Two thunks on the floor, one loud, the other a bounce and roll. Another sliding sound.

“How about some light?” Angie asked.

Silence.

“Could I have some light, pretty please?”

Nothing.

Screw those lousy bastards. She wouldn’t beg. And whatever scraps they’d thrown her, she’d leave lay. Let it sit a good long while. She had strength left. Plenty.

Moments later, a smell. Bread. Angie’s hollow stomach churned. Desert dry mouth salivated.

No, she wouldn’t crawl to find their scraps. Wouldn’t beg for light. Instead, Angie sat in the black and smiled her biggest smile. Maybe thermal imaging could pick up her pearly whites. She hoped so. Screw them.”

I hope that I’ve delivered as I promised in that early August blog, showing hints of plot without total revelation, character growth without the full impetus for that growth, and tense situations absent their complete cause. And, of course, I hope you enjoyed.

Steam of consciousness quote:

“Many time the reading of a book has made the future of a man.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who needs a hug?

Mostly, I remember her eyes. Big and bright, looking up, searching my face, studying my eyes, and then turning away from the exit door of my airliner, and tentatively moving toward me, her arms opening wide. As a father of three, and grandfather of five, one would think I’d have instantly deduced her purpose. But standing in the cockpit doorway, at the end of a thirteen-hour flying day, saying yet another round of goodbyes to my passengers, I was far less than my most alert self.

Just in time, I crouched low and folded her in, saying “Thank you. You’re so sweet. Thank you for the hug.” Trailing behind, toting their carry-on luggage, her mother just smiled down at us and waited. A few seconds later, the little girl let go and stepped back, looked me in the eyes again, then waived a tiny wave and walked off, her mother following along. The next few passengers also smiled at me, smiled at the wonderful captain who’d hugged the little girl. I nodded at each of them, feeling pretty good about myself. Soon the plane was empty, and my copilot and I did all the things that pilots do to put an airplane to bed. An hour later, I fell asleep in my hotel room, still thinking about that hug.

As the four-day trip wore on I repeatedly recounted this small tale of joy. Made every flight attendant smile. They asked questions. How old? What color hair? What did her mother do? But as I tried to remember all those other details, I kept recalling the little girl’s face, her eyes searching mine…and then came her offer? Yes, her offer…of a hug. And I suddenly knew that the hug wasn’t for her. The hug was for me. Some children are born older, wiser, come with a built-in compassion. Even now, as I recall not only her face, but her mother’s, I see in the memory of her mother’s face a resolved knowing, an acceptance that her child just did these things. Her little girl already connected with people, saw their needs. Just as she saw my fatigue, and knew that she had precisely what I needed, a great big hug.

She was right. I was dead tired. Tired of that day and tired of my job. After more than thirty-four years in cockpits, I was simply tired of flying. But the next day, I wasn’t. I woke up remembering her warm hug, felt energized, renewed, all from a little girl’s embrace.

I don’t know her name, but this little soul has already left a mark in this world. She warmed me then. Her memory warms me now. We so often wonder what is the purpose of our life? Sometimes, we think that we haven’t done something big enough, great enough. But maybe our purpose is simpler, like giving hugs. A hug is a pretty good legacy. No, it’s a great legacy. I’m so glad that I have some time left in my life to give a few.

What does this have to do with writing? Nothing, I suppose. Except that, beneath September’s full moon, a little girl’s hug dominates this author’s thoughts, as does the idea that fiction writing is nothing more than an attempt to connect, to tell a story that despite its many terrible twists and turns, its desperate lows, it all somehow turns out okay. In the end, justice prevails, or the villain repents, or love quietly endures. And in those final chapters, if the writer has completely connected, the reader gets that warm hug, and faith is renewed.

Steam of consciousness quote:

“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”–Rabindranath Tagore