We All Know

On this winter solstice – the longest night of the year – I think of the birth of light and how it grows to envelope the Earth and everything that is a part of creation.  I will contemplate on that light every day this week as we approach Christmas Day.  As I do, I will smile as I reflect on Alistair McKenzie’s song We All Know.

Alistair McKenzie

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 …..

Giving Thanks

GasparOne of my favorite films is the 1992 version of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic Last of the Mohicans.  The film opens as Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas chase down a deer for their meal.  Before partaking of the animal, they kneel before its lifeless body and thank it for sharing itself with them.  I think of that scene often as I try to slow my pace of eating in this hectic world we live in.

I used the scene early in Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ as the young Gaspar journeys to Kanheri with his slave Androkles and his Indian guide Bhima

“… I have learned during the first two nights that no one will ever eat food in Bhima’s presence without first thanking whatever powers he believes in for furnishing us with this food … Tonight, I take a single bite and chew it unhurriedly, thinking about the field of wheat that offers me its grain.  The wheat field rolls wave after effortless wave through my mind, powered by a soft breeze that flows in rhythm with the breath of the world.  I take a second bite and imagine a smiling woman using the grain to make the dough.  And so it goes as I picture the flowering lentil and thank it for giving me sustenance.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to slow your pace and thank God for being a part of creation that generously shares itself with its brothers and sisters.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

When a YOUNG Reader Gets It

I began my morning at the Easter sunrise service at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Picture Rocks Arizona on the fringe of the Sonoran Desert.  Not a better way to start an Easter Sunday…..

Fra Paul at Easter sunrise

Until this weekend, the youngest person to read one of my books was my grand nephew Christian who I believe read The Olympian shortly after its initial publication in 2008.  If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

This Easter weekend, we were blessed with a visit from my three sons – Nick’s wife Terri and Jesse’s VERY good friend Erica, too – and my eldest niece, Kira, her husband Phillip and two young sons Andrew, 11 – a future NBA prospect – and Michael – a free-spirited youngster with spunk.

Phillip, me and Kira

Our history with Kira goes back to the early 70’s when she was just a little girl, and when Marie and I had been married for about one month.  Kira and Christian’s father Sean lived with Marie and me for several months in Alaska.  Years later, Kira and Sean would visit and stay with us on our farm in Upstate New York.  Fast forward ….

After a few sessions of basketball at the park and a good hike at Sanctuary Cove, we shared a barbecue Saturday afternoon.  What has this to do with writing book?

As Kira, her terrific husband Phillip and sons Andrew and Michael prepared to leave and return to California, I gave them audio books of The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting and The Olympian: A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  I also gave them a hard copy of The Sixth Day and The Hamsa.  It was small recompense in return for the wonderful visit and Phillip’s gift of a subscription to Parabola.

Just minutes after they left the house, Kira sent me this picture of young Michael – eight-years old – trying to read The Sixth Day in the back seat of their mini-van as they returned to their hotel.

Frankly, the picture made my weekend.

Just over a month ago, I posted a piece about when ‘people get it.’  And then, I receive this picture from Kira …. Because The Sixth Day is written in Ebonics, young Michael will struggle with it.  I have cautioned his Mom that the ‘F’ word shows up once, maybe twice and the ‘N’ word appears occasionally, but that is consistent with the time period in which I told the story.

MichaelWhether or not Michael ‘gets it,’ I can see the concentration on his face as this eight-year-old boy points to each word and does his best to sound them out … “John Paul was a boy with two first names ….”

Eventually,  young Michael will ‘get it!’  What made my day?  Tough call:  Andrew and me playing 2v2 against a pair of high school players from Mountain View and losing 12 -10, ‘make it, take it;’ or Michael trying to read The Sixth Day.  Regardless of the choice …. what a day!

‘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 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.