A Special Gift

E.S. KraayYesterday, I received an email from an old friend and teammate, gentleman Sean Riley.  He just completed reading Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ.  When I get back home, I will add his comments to the “What They’re Saying” page.  Sean recalled a few years back when I started writing Gaspar that I put the nativity sequence up on the website as a download.  He asked for a copy so he could read it to his grandkids on Christmas Eve.

With thanks to all the people who have taken time to comment and review my work since The Olympian was published in 2008, I have to admit that Sean’s request means more to me than any I’ve received.

GasparEvery Christmas, I try to put up a free download on my websites as a gesture of my appreciation for the support and inspiration I get from readers and subscribers of my websites and of my novels.  Two years ago, I put up the draft of the nativity sequence from Gaspar.  I titled the nativity sequence The Star, which is the title of the chapter from which I take it.  In December 2012, I wrote that I expected the book to be out by December 2013.  I was only a year off!

This year, I have decided to offer the final version of the nativity sequence as it appears in the final version of the book published in August 2014.  Sean’s email came when we had already made the decision to offer The Christmas Story from Gaspar as this year’s appreciation gift.E.S. Kraay

As I was preparing the short manuscript for download, I had another wild idea.  I called my friend and business associate Alistair McKenzie in Los Angeles.  Alistair produced the audio books for The Sixth Day, A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting and The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  He also wrote and performed the song We Pray for Light, which will undoubtedly be featured in The Sixth Day film – working title Third Man – if we get lucky and see it to fruition.  I asked Alistair if he would consider reading the sequence and producing a short audio.  He agreed.  I pushed the envelope and asked him if he would consider writing a Christmas song to accompany the reading.  Within a few days, he sent me his draft, an amazing original song tentatively titled We All Know.

The Sixth Day
Alistair McKenzie – actor, composer, playwright, screenwriter, producer, director

When I told my friend Father Paul Coury at the Redemptorist Center what I was up to, he encouraged me to ‘witness’ why I wrote Gaspar and to read the sequence and play Alistair’s song at all three Masses over Epiphany weekend, January 3 and 4, 2015.  I thought about it and called Alistair to discuss it.  With little hesitation, Alistair McKenzie agreed to come to Tucson and read The Christmas Story from Gaspar at Our Lady of the Desert Church at the Redemptorist Center over Epiphany weekend.  More on that later.

This is my initial announcement that this special gift – a PDF download of Gaspar’s Christmas Story, Alistair’s audio producThe Olympiantion and accompanying Christmas song – will be available for download at no charge later this month.  Please look for it and spread the ‘good news.’  As much as I want to say this is my gift to you, I know it is as much a product of Alistair McKenzie’s generous and creative heart.  More to follow soon …..

Olympian Winners Announced

Alistair McKenzie and I are pleased to announce the winners of our first “E.S. Kraay Online” giveaway.

  • Domestic US winner – Alexei Michalenko, retired Catholic priest from Alexandria, Virginia.
  • International winner – Pedro Colacci, General Manager of PCB Representatives in Lima, Peru.

Congratulations to both Father Michalenko and Mr. Colacci.  Each will receive his free Audible audio book of The Olympian: A Tale of Ancient Hellas this week.

Thanks to everyone who participated.  Throughout the week, we received 175 entries.  We plan to run monthly giveaways of books, CDs and other prizes related to this website and to the creative arts.

The Olympian

The 7-Year Question

HopLiteEver since Jon Smith and his HopLite Entertainment group put The Sixth Man: A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting on their upcoming project list – working title for the film is “Third Man” – I have become very interested in film development and all of the complexities and challenges that surround it.

I have also learned that patience is necessary in this industry.

Last fall, I subscribed to the American Film Market.  Founded in 1981, the American Film Market (AFM) has become the premiere global marketplace where Hollywood’s decision-makers and trendsetters all gather every year in November under one roof in Santa Monica, California.

Last week, AFM offered its subscribers a complementary PDF download of The Business of Show Business for Creatives:  Film Business Essentials for Anne GillenGetting Your Film to Market edited by Anne Marie Gillen.  I took advantage of the offer and have been reading it with great interest.  Once again, I am humbled in how little I know, but grateful that I have access to Ms. Gillen’s take on the industry.

I have been writing novels for a dozen years and have been tutored, advised and mentored by some incredible minds.  That said, I read something in Ms. Gillen’s book this morning that is the best creative litmus test I have ever crossed paths with, and I know it can be valuable in other industries as well.  Ms. Gillen writes,

“When I was COO of Morgan Freeman’s production company, Revelations Entertainment, I came up with the 7 Year Question to be sure we were ready to take on this phase of every project:

• If it took us 7 years to get this film made, would we be happy we took on the project?

• If we spent 7 years trying to get this film made and didn’t, would we be happy with having taken the journey?

If you can answer a resounding “Yes” to both those questions, then go for it, for the VISIONARY in you is ready to take it on.

Over the last dozen years, I have produced four novels, one novella and a West Point football trivia book.  That’s a book every two years.  I began my current project in May 2012.  While I think the end may be in sight, after reading Ms. Gillen’s “7-Year Question,” I’ve decided that I am willing to take five more years if I have to, if that is what I need to invest to complete the project.  Further, if at the end of seven years the project doesn’t pan out, I will have no qualms and will be more than satisfied that I took the journey.

After pondering the “7-Year Question,” I have determined that I am not on a deadline to get the manuscript finished …. I’m on a deadline to finish it RIGHT.  It will be done when it is done.

As a creative person, I’m convinced this is a good rule of thumb.  But even in other industries, the “7-Year Question” is a good question to ask yourself, your associates and even your company.  The answer clearly and unequivocally demonstrates a person’s or group’s commitment to the task at hand.

‘Third Man’ Update

The Sixth DayThe American Film Market Conference takes place in Santa Monica next week, and HopLite Entertainment will be there to pre-sell ‘Third Man’ to domestic and foreign distributors.  As we close in on the conference, HopLite hopes to sign contracts with actors in several key roles, most importantly ‘The Old Man.’  Names cannot be released until contracts are signed, but I am pleased to report that “XXXX XXXXX” will make the perfect Old Man if he accepts the contract that has been extended to him.  You can follow the progress of the film on the Third Man IMDb (International Movie Database) website.  More as we continue to move forward.

Third Man

The Sixth Day Preview

The Sixth DayWe previewed the audio book The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella about Creation and Prizefighting at the Normandel Place assisted living facility yesterday.  Prior to the preview, we explained to the listeners that the story is set in the 1960’s and it details one day in the lives of five brothers abandoned by their parents as young boys.  “You will hear the ‘N’ word a half dozen times,” I explained.  “Comes with the times,” one resident answered.  “Well, you will also hear the ‘F’ word,” I cautioned.  “Honey,” 83-year old Mardel from Minnesota responded, “I was a barmaid once.  I believe I’ve heard the word before.”

Satisfied that no one would endure physical repercussions from a handful of sensitive words, I hit ‘Play’ and left the facility.

I returned this morning to retrieve my equipment and was met with smiles and positive reviews.

“What a marvelous story,” Martha Gallagher, a widowed nurse and Air Force wife commented from her wheelchair, “and the man who read the story was wonderful.  Is he the one who sings the song at the end?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I answered with a smile on my face.  “He wrote it, too.”  Alistair McKenzie [who produced the audio book with Jasmine Fontes] wrote the music and lyrics to “We Pray for Light” specifically for The Sixth Day audio book, and he performs it at the end of the book.

“Well you and that man who reads this should be proud of yourselves,” Mrs. Gallagher concluded.  “We liked it so much, we listened to the entire book twice!”

Am I pleased?  Yes, and I am humbled by the enthusiastic reception by this group of aged and wizened people.

The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella about Creation and Prizefighting will be available at Amazon, Audible and iTunes by the end of May 2013, and we will announce its availability with links when it happens.  In the meantime, here’s your chance to hear the ‘Retail Audio Sample’ that will be posted with the audio book on the retail sites.  I hope it captures your interest, and I hope you find it as endearing as my friends at Normandel did.

The Sixth Day audio sample 

We are all Jesus!

The Sixth Day Available NOW

I am pleased to announce yesterday’s [October 12, 2012] publication of my new book The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Fists of IronPrizefighting.

As the title implies, it is a short work relative to my earlier books.  It is not historical fiction.  It is a simple story about five brothers.  When my wife finished reading the initial draft in less than two hours, she looked up and said, “Now that is a ‘feel good’ story,” and that is the exact emotion I hoped to elicit.

As much as I like my previous work, there is something special about this story that came to me like a flash in the middle of the night.  I am very excited about it.  You can learn more about the book at this hyperlink and you can learn more about the story’s evolution at this hyperlink.

The book is available now as both a physical book and as an electronic book at Kindle.  You can acquire either or both from ‘The Store’ page in this website.

I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Please spread the news to your friends and associates.  Thanks for your continued support.

Where Ideas Come From: The Sixth Day

Fists of IronSometimes lightening just strikes and The Sixth Day was initiated by that lightening strike out of a clear, blue sky.  The very nature and structure of the book – so different from my other manuscripts – says something about it origin.

On July 26, 2012, I woke up around 2AM with a pair of sentences running through my mind over and over:  “John Paul was a boy with two first names.  His brothers called him Flap Jack because he loved pancakes more than anything else.”  I remained in bed another 30 minutes, but I could not escape the words.  Over and over, I heard them, I saw them, I felt them.

I climbed from my bed, sat at my desk and started writing, not really knowing what I would write.  The narrative evolved quickly into parallel story lines, one about creation and the other, a boxing match whose violence counters and ultimately balances the good intentions of creation.

With every other manuscript, I chose, researched and developed the story.  The Sixth Day chose me.  Ebonics was natural to the telling of the tale, and with the first words of dialogue, I decided not to use quotation marks.

From the beginning, the book was different.  I continue to call it ‘quirky,’ and its quirkiness is displayed in the full title and in the Kindle cover that veers Kraaysharply, if not irreverently from the traditional cover of the physical book.

I maintain a list of ‘story ideas’ that is larger than I’d like to admit.  The Sixth Day concept was not on that list, but I tabled everything I was working on to finish it.  From start to finish was less than three months; The Hamsa, for example took nearly two years.

Sometimes an idea will strike a writer like a summer cold; you just can’t escape it.  Frankly, I didn’t try to and I’m glad I didn’t.  Now it’s back to Gaspar….