After I had completed at least three drafts of my first novel, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas, my friend Steven Pressfield suggested, “You might first fivewant to get a copy of Noah Lukeman’s book The First Five Pages.  I think you will find it helpful.”  That is a typical understatement from a great author.

I had the book in my hands a week later, and – slow reader that I am – had finished reading its 200 pages in just a few days.  I was devastated, tried and found guilty of every trap Mr. Lukeman advises writers to be cautious.  I went back to ground zero and re-wrote The Olympian another three times.  As The Olympian remains my best seller, I must have done something right, and I will forever thank Mr. Pressfield for his sage advice.

Over the years, people have come to me to discuss writing projects.  One of the first things I tell them is to secure a copy of The First Five Pages.  The pages in my copy have gone brown, the yellow highlights have faded, but the black ‘stars’ and underlines I’ve made over the years will remain forever.

While the book overflows with indispensable information, the exercise that has been most valuable to me is presented in Chapter 3, “Sound.”  Mr. Lukeman writes,

“Take some time to read poetry.  Spend weeks reading as many different poets as you can.  By devoting all this attention to the individual word, phrase and stanza, you will learn a greater attention for language, and this attention will eventually show in your own work.”

I have read poetry daily since I read that paragraph in 2003.

celticLast week, I discovered a new poet, Amairgen, one of the mythological Milesian kings who conquered Ireland.  As he approached the island and stepped ashore, Amairgen sang an invocation calling upon the spirit of Ireland that has come to be known as “The Song of Amairgen.”  Irish tradition claims that Amairgen’s ode is the first poem ever composed in Ireland.  I find great beauty and rhythm in “The Song of Amairgen,” and I think you will see, using this poem as an example, how poetry can inspire writers and improve their prose.

Listen to “The Song of Amairgen” while you read

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,

I am the wave of the ocean,

I am the murmur of the billows,

I am the ox of the seven combats,

I am the vulture upon the rocks,

I am a beam of the sun,

I am the fairest of plants,

I am the wild boar in valour,

I am the salmon in the water,

I am a lake in the plain,

I am a world of knowledge,

I am the point of the lance of battle,

I am the God who created the fire in the head

Early Reactions to Gaspar


Henry Van DykeReactions to Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ are slowly beginning to arrive including the first review on Amazon.  Comments range from “It is so very, very interesting of a read, it is too difficult to put down,” to “Spellbinding,” and “A wonderful testimony to faith via imagination. Reminds me of Henry van Dyke’s The Other Wise Man except Gaspar is one of the originals.”

I always say that the highlight of post-production for me is when somebody really ‘gets it,’ and Mr. McKenzie’s Amazon review shows a deep understanding of the story’s progression,

“Engaging story of the Magi, cleverly conceived and beautifully executed. The growth of Gaspar throughout the narrative introduces us to his ordained purpose gradually so that we don’t realize we’re in the presence of divinity.”

Thanks to all who have read and are reading Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ.


According to Wikipedia, an epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising statement.  This literary device has been employed for over two millennia.  The only book with which I did not employ an epigram was my first, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas, and my cop thriller, DWI: Dying While Intoxicated.  With the others ….

Bronislaw Czech


The Hamsa, Raphael answered, ‘I will go with him; so do not fear.  We shall leave in good health and return to you in good health, because the way is safe.’  Tobit 5:16




Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South, I never disregard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous. C.S. Lewis


Third Man


The Sixth Day, a 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting, For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:  Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book.  Jeremiah 30: 1-2

And most recently,



Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ, “I am the same to all beings.”  The Bhagavad Gita

I hope you will agree that my choice of epigrams accurately reflects the content of each book.

An Author’s First Look

pressfieldWith all due respect to Steven Pressfield the master of historical fiction, Stephen King the master of fiction Kingperiod and countless other authors like Ron McLarty and Leif Enger who I read with fervor, I Memory of Runningmust admit that I consider Mark Helprin THE master of writing.  By the way, if you click any of the covers, you will go to the book on Amazon.  Every since I engerread Winter’s Tale the first time 30 years ago, I’ve often said of Mark HelprinMr. Helprin’s prose, “If you open any of his books at random to any page and begin to read, what rolls from your tongue is pure poetry.”

Yesterday afternoon as I worked my Friday shift at the Redemptorist book store, Marie called to let me know that the physical proof of my new book Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ had arrived at the house.  I couldn’t wait to get home.  After you spend over two years researching, writing and re-writing a manuscript, there is something very special about holding the physical fruit of your labor in your hands.  Even as I write this, the book smiles at me from the corner of my desk.

When I returned home, the plain, unadorned brown box waited patiently for me where Marie had placed it on my desk.  I carefully opened Gasparthe package and finally held the book in my hand.  Gaspar is my sixth novel in 10 years, and the longest by a considerable margin.

I read the two opening paragraphs aloud to my wife.  “I like that,” she replied.  Then I did the Mark Helprin test and opened the book randomly and read another paragraph

We glide into the mist.  It is thick and moist, then light begins to penetrate its weakness and it begins to rise like a flock of birds hiding in a marsh.  Land emerges before us and extends as far as we can see from east to west.  This is no small spit of land like those islands we have passed during our thirty days on the water.  This land has substance.  It is a real place.  I believe it is the end of the world.  Exhausted, we collapse on the rocky beach, and within minutes, the sun’s warmth lures us to sleep.  Dog runs off to explore the nearby forest ….

While I’ll make no claim to be Mark Helprin, I’ll stand by my words.

For whatever reason, the book begged me to read the final paragraphs.  Hard for me to explain, but I had difficulty getting through them; I kept getting choked up, not because it was the end of the book, but because I find the conclusion as emotional as I read it now as I did when I first wrote it a year ago.  Marie smiles and turns away to allow me my private tears and emotional release.

I will post the announcement tomorrow that Gaspar, Another Tales of the Christ is officially available on Amazon.  I expect the Kindle version to be up by mid-August.  Thanks for your continued interest and support.

No Excuses

“Excuses are for losers to justify why they are not winners.”

That is what I would tell my four children, and that is what I would tell the thousands of young athletes I coached through 20 years as a United States Soccer Federation nationally licensed coach.  I hope my kids and my former players continue to pass that statement onto their children and to the young people whose lives they cross.

Here’s the fact … it is not an excuse … As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say on ‘Dragnet,’ “Just the facts, ma’am.  Just the facts.”

After more than two years, I am nearing the completion of my seventh book.  This will be the fourth historical novel.  Add to that my novella, The Sixth Day: a 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting; a vigilante crime novel DWI: Dying While Intoxicated; and a West Point football trivia book for Black Mesa Publishing and this will be my seventh book.

I try to get five hours each day, five days a week into the book.  I am on the third and hopefully final draft with this new one.  I want to say the book is my top priority, but I can’t say that for certain.  In addition to completing the book and getting it to the publisher …

  • I purchase books for a small bookstore.
  • I manage a small library.
  • I ride my bike 1 – 2 hours each day.
  • I give care to my 91-year old father who lives with my wife and me.
  • I do a significant amount of research to support what I write
  • I read multiple books
    • The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong
    • Neither Wolf nor Dog by Ken Nerburn
    • Steven Pressfield’s new book, The Lion’s Gate
    • Night by Elie Wiesel
    • Markings by Dag Hammarskjold
    • current and back issues of ‘Parabola’ magazine

I think I am forgetting something, but I can’t remember!

The point is not that I have a lot on my plate.  The point is that I have been less attentive to my blogs, the Vitruvian Man blog and E.S. Kraay Online blog.  I have not forgotten about either and remain committed to both.

This is my plea to bear with me.  I am not abandoning them.  Stay with me, and thanks for listening.

Old Booksellers

As I worked my typical Friday shift in the Redemptorist Center bookstore today, a young lady — well, she is younger than I am — came in with her book and asked if we would consider carrying it in our bookstore.  I told her I would do the standard ‘check’ I do for all books

  • Is our vendor carrying a large quantity — if he is, it means the book is selling.
  • How is it doing on Amazon — certainly not the end-all indicator, but it is worth a look.

The vendor was carrying a ‘substantial’ quantity at their site, the ‘secondary’ site, which I have figured out is where they store all independent and self-published books.  It was doing ‘OK’ on Amazon.  Having played the game, if an author is under a million, he or she is at least in the top 20% of books sold.  As I researched her book, she told me how most people don’t understand how difficult it is to write a book.  That stopped me in my tracks.

“Lady,” I said more harshly than I intended, “I’m working on my sixth novel.  I understand how ‘difficult’ it is to complete this compelling task of love that we call writing a book.”

I think I set her back on her heels, unintentionally.  In the final analysis, I told her — and I did — I would order several copies from our vendor for our shelves.  She was most appreciative.

How shameful is it that I cannot recall her title of her book or her name?  I will post it tomorrow!  She is absolutely right.  Very few people know how difficult it is to write a book, particularly all of those people with such great ideas that ‘never got around to it.’ 

Bless the hearts of all those people who do have the courage to do it, and then have the courage like my new friend to personally go from bookstore to bookstore selling their wares.  A final thought …

Here’s one of the greatest compliments I have received in recent years …. A lady was passing by the ‘new book’ display and picked up Fra Rohr’s latest offering Silent Compassion. “That’s his latest book,” I commented.  That led to a lengthy conversation.  She bought the book.  Before she left the store, she said to me, “You remind me of the old booksellers — she was 75 if she was a day.  When you see someone looking at a book, you can lead them down the road to other books.”  That made my day.