Why I Won’t Read Harper Lee’s ‘New’ Book

To Kill a MockingbirdIn anticipation of Harper Lee’s ‘new’ book, Go Set a Watchman (to be released this week), I read her original Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird (published in 1960) earlier this month.  It gets better with every reading.  Last night, we watched the 1962 Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  Like the book, I enjoy the film more and more each time I view it.  I can say the same for It’s a Wonderful Life, which we watch every year.

It has been 65 years since Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.  According to most accounts, Go Set a mockingbirdWatchman was her original manuscript that her editors guided through a significant re-write.  To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930’s during the Great Depression.  Go Set a Watchman is set in Maycomb in the 1950’s.  Scout, Jean Louise Finch and her attorney father Atticus are the main characters in both novels.

At 89-years old, I seriously doubt that Ms. Lee was the moving force behind the publication of the ‘new’ book, which was originally written in 1957.

This morning, I woke up still feeling good about the film I watched last night.  Then I began wondering about Ms. Lee’s motivation to publish a ‘new’ book.  The more I thought about that, the more I wondered about her publishers ….

I decided to read a review.  I will not put any ‘spoilers’ in this post, but I will link to Friday’s New York Times review.

Personally, I want to remember Atticus Finch and his children the way they were in To Kill a Mockingbird.  I know Go Set a Watchman will sell like wildfire.  I have read it is already the most pre-ordered book since Harry Potter.

I do wonder how it will be received.  Will I change my mind and read it?  Don’t know, but right now, I take comfort that there were and still are people on this earth like Atticus Finch.

The Olympian, Second Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

heraklesSecond Movement – Divine Birth: As they prepare to rest on their second night in the forest, the eldest Thasian, Parmenides tells Simonides that he has reason to believe that Theagenes is indeed the physical son of Herakles, the divine hero and son of Zeus.  He relates a story told to him by Theagenes’ grandfather who says he was witness to the impregnation of his daughter by the greatest of Greek heroes.

“Herakles came to my bed last night and together we conceived a child.  I know it is so.  He said but few words to me and only after the act had been completed.  He said, ‘I give you my son.’  That was all he said, father, and I believe him.”

from The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas


The Olympian, First Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

oracle of delphiFirst Movement – On his annual pilgrimage to the Oracle of Delphi, the poet Simonides meets a contingent of travelers from the island of Thasos.  This is their second visit to the Oracle where they hope to learn what they need to do so that the gods will lift the famine that has gripped their island.  Simonides is convinced that the Oracle’s direction to “welcome back all exiles” makes direct reference to the fact that the Thasians have taken the statue they raised to their champion – the Olympic boxer Theagenes – and tossed it into the Aegean Sea.  Simonides explains that if they return the statue to its proper place of prominence, the gods will show mercy and end the famine.  The Thasians agree to let Simonides return to Thasos with them so that he can explain why the return of the statue is the only thing that satisfy the Pythia’s instructions to please the gods.

Rocky’s Reminder

rocky rhe rescueOne month ago, we invited ES Kraay Online readers to submit dog stories to Jane Park Smith as she searches for material for her next book, Rocky the Rescue, Vol. 2, a sequel to her original Rocky the Rescue book published in November 2012.

Click on the “Complementary Offerings” link on the navigation bar at the top of the page and you can download the

Jane Park Smith
Jane Park Smith

instructions and application form.  I am pleased that 23 writers have already downloaded the package from this website.  Show your love for your best friend and tell your dog’s story.

Call to All Dog Lovers

The HamsaI love dogs and they continually find their way into my novels.  My two favorites are Raphael in The Hamsa and Caesar in Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, the first named after an archangel, the second after my own American Bulldog.  I am certain you love your dogs no less than I love mine.  Here is your chance to let your canine partner inspire others.

I befriended Jane Park Smith through our mutual friendship with Alistair McKenzie who I first met in 2013 when he produced the audiobook of The Sixth Day, a 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting.  Like me, Jane writes books … like Alistair, Jane is an actor … like Alistair and me, Jane has a deep spiritual awareness and acknowledges God in every thought, word and deed.  She is also a model, a public speaker and a wellness coach.  Follow any of the links in this post to learn more about this talented woman.

Shortly after I wrote The Sixth Day, Jane published Rocky the Rescue, a selection of lessons learned from arocky and Jane rescue pup to inspire his human companions to be better versions of themselves.  The book’s success has encouraged Jane to create a sequel, Rocky the Rescue, Volume 2.  This is where you, me and all dog lovers in the world come into the picture ….

Jane is soliciting stories from dog lovers around the world.  Everyone is welcome to submit his story.  She is accepting submissions through November 1, 2015.  Each of us has seven months to sharpen our pencils and our brains.  I plan to submit my own story hoping that it may be good enough to make the final cut, but whether or not it does makes no difference.  I love my dogs and I will tell their stories.  I will encourage my children and grandchildren to get involved.  Jane’s book is a way for all dog lovers to create a special community based on our best friends.

You can download the instruction sheet and application form here.

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As you ponder the story your dog wants you to tell, I invite you to visit Rocky’s website and learn more.  We will be carrying it in our sidebar through October.  Additionally, I will post monthly reminders so that you will not forget to get involved with this worthwhile project.  You will note on Rocky’s website that 90% of Jane’s proceeds go to charities.  Don’t wait.  Download the instructions and application form and get involved.  You may become the next Flannery O’Connor or F. Scott Fitzgerald!


Lonely Bird


Dirty white egret

In the dusky desert sky

The sunset burns you




Write a ‘holy sentence’ every day … none of us has a lock on truth and insight.

Share your haiku in the contact form so we can create a haiku exchange with other readers and subscribers.

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Writing Advice from Jorge Bergoglio

first fiveWhen we write or speak a single sentence, we arrange words in such a way as to present a clear thought to those who read or hear them.  A book or a speech is a collection of sentences assembled to deliver an idea.  A sentence or a collection of sentences, written or spoken, creates an image or images in our mind.  The sentence creator is successful when his words evoke the image he intended to create with his words.

Stores and libraries are filled with books to help us communicate effectively.  Story by Robert McKee is one of the most popular for screenwriters and novelists.  My personal favorite is The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman; it is always within arm’s reach of my desk.

Pope FrancisYesterday, I read a few sentences that gave me great insight to writing more effectively, and the advice came from a rather unlikely source, Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis, The Joy of the GospelEvangelii Gaudium is a 2013 Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis, a communication from the Pope to encourage people to undertake a certain activity, in this case the proclamation of the Gospel.

In paragraph 158, Pope Francis quotes Pope Paul VI (1897 – 1978), “The faithful … expect much from preaching (and writing), and will greatly benefit from it, provided that it is simple, clear, direct, well-adapted.”  He then adds his own advice,

“Simplicity has to do with the language we use.  It must be one that people understand, lest we risk speaking to a void.  Preachers (and writers) often use words learned during their studies and in specialized settings which are not part of the ordinary language of their hearers … The greatest risk for a preacher is that he becomes so accustomed to his own language that he thinks that everyone else naturally understands and uses it.”

Pope Francis presents the basic framework for all effective communications:  SIMPLICITY.

I set my word processor to give me ‘readability’ statistics when I review spelling and grammar.  There was a time when I inadvisably wrote to achieve a ‘double digit’ grade level thinking that it would lift my writing to greatness because only ‘educated people,’ could understand my ‘word collections.’  I’ve long since abandoned that practice.  My current working manuscript, for example earns a 6th grade Flesch-Kincaid readability level.  I am satisfied because that means it will make sense to a broader range of readers.

As you speak or write, take advice from Pope Francis.  KISS …. Keep it simple.

By the way …. I blew it on this one … it’s at grade level 10.