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.

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas

a hero is bornAlthough it wasn’t published until 2008, I completed The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas in 2004.  I can’t believe it was over ten years ago.  Of all my books, The Olympian remains the best-seller.  It is available as a physical book, an eBook for Kindle and even an audio book thanks to the masterful telling of the tale by Alistair McKenzie.

During the early months of 2015, we posted a summary of Tobit and the Hoodoo Man in ‘eight movements.’  Years ago, Steven Pressfield told me that the great film director David Lean believed that all films could be reduced to “seven or eight movements.”  I like the idea.  Ever since Mr. Pressfield told me that, I watch films with a different perspective.

In 2009, we optioned the film rights to The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  The producer extended the option several times, but in 2013, he opted not to extend the option.  The business of film is as tough as it gets.

Early in the process, as he prepared his package for perspective investors, writers, actors, etc., he asked me to summarize the story for him in eight movements.  While I was never privy to his final package, I was pleased that he asked me for my ‘vision’ of the story on film.

As I did with Tobit earlier in the year, for the next several weeks, I will post the eight movements of The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  I hope it will bring back fond memories to those who have read it, and maybe encourage those who haven’t to read this book about human values.  Nineteenth century clergyman Henry Ward Beecher best sums up the heart of The Olympian when he wrote,

“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory.  He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”

Join me in the coming weeks as I present The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas in eight movements.



Gethsemane … The word, the name has haunted me for a lifetime.  From Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ

“Raised voices of repressed anger rumble above us.  Heavy footsteps, perhaps a scuffle.  A chair grinds the floor, another falls heavily. Footsteps to the doorway, then down the steps outside.  A figure halts and stares into the room, probably not expecting to see us.  The man’s hair and eyes are dark, indecision and worry etched into the lines on his brow, so deep that they are shadowed.  He turns and takes a step toward the stairway, maybe thinking to return.

“He takes his head in his hands as if holding it together.  He is in pain, more mental than physical.  His anguish is visible in every drop of sweat that falls from his forehead.  ‘Damn, him!  Damn them all,’ he whispers under his breath.  He runs into the street and disappears into the night.

“More footsteps above us.  Someone standing on the balcony calls into the darkness with a restrained and husky voice, ‘Judas.  Judas.  Please come back.’

“But Judas, if that was his name is gone.”


Editorial Team

monk writingThe response to my request a week ago for editorial assistance on my new manuscript was overwhelming.  Thank you to all our subscribers, readers and friends who are willing to help make this new book the best it can be.  By mid-week, we had assembled a team that I am calling the ‘Tatanka Editorial Team.’  As I told the team members, I think I had Frank Sinatra on my brain and was thinking of Danny Ocean’s 11 when I selected the team members from the inquiries that came in.  The team members come from all walks of life with broad professional experience in many venues.  Each is an avid reader and most are experienced writers in their own right.  One resides in Thailand, and we reside on both coasts from California to the Atlantic seaboard and New England.  I am grateful to have such support and inspiration.  Thanks again to all who inquired.  ESK

Seeking Editorial Assistance

KraayI am seeking ‘editorial consultation.’

Since I made my first escape from ‘traditional business’ and began writing ‘for real’ in 2002, I have published six novels.  While it may not be my favorite of the six, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas is my bestseller.  Published in 2008, The Olympian is also my first.

The final page of The Olympian contains “Acknowledgements,” a practice I regrettably abandoned after The Hamsa in 2010.  The acknowledgements in both books contain a similar reference

“Thanks to my F-106 brother-in-arms George Mehrtens who was willing to pour through the manuscript and give me his recommendations, suggestions and observations …”

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas, 2008


“Once again, avid reader, aviator and good friend George Mehrtens pushed me from start to finish.”

The Hamsa, 2010

Of the six books, the cleanest, most error-free are The Olympian and The Hamsa.  I regret not having continued the editing process I used in the first two manuscripts.  I changed course for three reasons

  • Editing is no easy task.  I felt I was imposing upon my friend.

  • As an independent publisher, I get so excited when I write, “The End” after 100,000 words or so that I become too eager to push the book into print and just do not give enough attention to the final, most important step.

  • I am not nearly as smart as I think I am (although that may attest that I am becoming wise)

With both The Olympian and The Hamsa, I gave completed manuscripts to George Mehrtens – The Olympian is 83,000 words and The monk writingHamsa, 134,000 – and expected him to return it in 30 days, a completely unrealistic and daunting task that only a friend like Mert would have attempted with a smile on his face.

Experience has taught me the error of my former ways …

Last week, I turned 5,000 words in my new manuscript, another historical novel.  After much thought, I decided to seek editorial assistance throughout the writing process rather than wait until the entire manuscript is completed.  Here is what I propose …

I expect to write 2,000 to 3,000 words each week, occasionally less, sometimes more.  My outline suggests 12 to 16 chapters.  Each chapter may be approximately 10,000 words.  As I conclude each chapter, I will forward it to my editorial consultant.  Her meticulous job will be to read the chapter to identify spelling errors, grammatical errors, typographical errors, and to offer ‘content suggestions’ and other observations to strengthen the story.  The consultant can work at his own pace.  I expect this to be a 1 to 2-year project, definitely not shorter, possibly longer.

If you would consider editing my new manuscript, please fill out at submit the contact form.  All inquiries are welcome and appreciated.  Please send any questions that you might have.  Thanks for your consideration.

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Tobit: Fourth Movement, 1840 – 1865

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

Fourth Movement – the Runaway is Captured, Tobit is Blinded and Marries Anna.  Tobit returns Master Ashur’s body to Nineveh.  Weeks later, a group of riders comes to Nineveh.  It is Masters Charles and Robert.  They have captured Cato, the runaway slave.  Tobit is accused of abetting Cato in his flight.  As penance, he must act as the executioner when they hang Cato from ‘the hangin’ tree.’  Reluctantly and remorsefully, Tobit slaps the horse from beneath Cato.  The deed is done.  Wolfenbüttel tells the slaves to leave the body to rot as an example.  Two nights later, Tobit removes the body and buries it.  When Wolfenbüttel learns that the body is gone, he demands that the perpetrator come forward.  When no one does, Wolfenbüttel threatens to execute a slave.  Tobit steps forward and announces that he buried the body.  When he refuses to tell the taskmaster where, Wolfenbüttel blinds him with a red-hot iron.  Anna tends to his wounds for weeks and he takes her for his wife.  Six years after the blinding, she bears him a son, Tobias.  Master Ashur’s

Etienne Broussard

widow marries Master Charles, he moves to Nineveh, and Davie and Tobit are reunited.  … Twenty Five years pass … Etienne visits as a Colonel in the Confederate Army.  Master Charles, his wife and Wolfenbüttel abandon the plantation in the wake of the approaching Union army.  A Union officer comes to Nineveh and tells the slaves President Lincoln has freed them.  Tobit and the slaves assume control of the plantation.  Etienne returns injured and the slaves amputate his leg.

The Search for Truth

I find it interesting how one book, one author, one concept, one thought leads to another and another and another ….

At our Seed of the Word book club meeting yesterday — if you care to listen, you can click this link — we discussed Thomas Merton’s classic The Seven Storey Mountain.  If you do listen, I’m the schmuck answering the moderator’s first question.  I tell the group, “I had difficulty reading this book.”  Definitely not the consensus!  Next up at the club is Jesus, A Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ who unequivocally states that it was Merton’s book that changed his life and led him from Corporate America to the Jesuits.  See the connection?  One thing leads to another.

The HamsaToday’s Zenit quotation of the day comes from Maximilian Kolbe

“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.”

I smiled when I read that.  Maximilian Kolbe appears briefly in The Hamsa as that ‘crazy holy man’ who saves Bronek with his Latin recitation of Pater Noster.  Then I reflected on Kolbe’s quote.  The promo quote from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ is

“The story of one man’s remarkable search for truth.”

I begin every manuscript with a core message, and the core message behind Gaspar is:  Truth is universal.

Mrs. tVM and I hike the ‘Inspiration Trail’ at Sanctuary Cove several times every year.  One of the messages posted on the trail is a quote from Chief Seattle:

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Indeed, it is a Circle of Life.  One thing leads to another and in the end, all things are connected.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

Tobit: Third Movement, 1840 – Tobit Meets the Hoodoo Man

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

cherokeeThird Movement – Tobit Meets the HOODOO MAN.  Masters Ashur and CHARLES (50) depart Due West with Tobit and Davie in tow.  A storm delays their progress and they camp at night to wait out the heavy rain.  As they sit by their fire, a large, imposing man seems to materialize in thin air as he jumps from the trees startling the travelers with his Hoodoo cries.  He is a highwayman, a Cherokee Indian who has mastered the art of thievery.  He introduces himself as CHEROKEE JACK (30), and ‘I be a hoodoo  man and I be here fo’ just one thing … yo’ money!’’  Despite advice and caution from Master Charles, Tobit and Davie, Ashur foolishly decides to take matters into his own hands and grapples with Cherokee Jack.  With the sound of Jack’s pistol, Charles and Davie flee into the darkness.  Master Ashur is dead.  Jack offers to split the Master Ashur’s purse with Tobit, but Tobit will not take the ‘blood money.’  Jack departs but tells Tobit if he ever needs the money, he can find him in Savannah.

The REAL Red Carpet

When Hoplite Entertainment pulls it all together and films Third Man based on The Sixth Day, A 17,175 Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting, I know I will enjoy walking the ‘Red Carpet;’ the film is certain to be a critical and financial success based on the preliminary screenplays I’ve been privy to read.  As big a thrill as that will be, it will not eclipse two things that happened in January 2015 regarding my books.

I will stick to my frequent statements that the greatest satisfaction I get from writing stories is not the paychecks, rather the reviews and comments people share with me.  When a reader truly ‘gets’ what the book is about and expresses it in a review, a comment, a phone call or an email, it justifies the years of work that go into a manuscript.  That said, I will remember two ‘book events’ in January 2015 and cherish them for the rest of my life.

I have already written about the first one, Alistair McKenzie’s presentation two weeks ago of the ‘nativity sequence’ from Gaspar on Epiphany weekend at the Redemptorist Renewal Center.  The second event occurred this morning at Legacy Traditional School in Maricopa, Arizona.

My 7-year old granddaughter, Xylia is a member of Mrs. Ball’s second grade class.  Whenever she visits us in Tucson, Xylia spends time in my office asking questions about my books and about writing books.  In December last year, she asked if I would come to her class and talk about writing books with her class.  “Sure,” I told her.  She obviously said something to her teacher because a week or two later, Mrs. Ball asked if I would be willing to do it.  Today was the day.

Pray for PeaceI have spoken publicly many times in my life … to hundreds of aviators at symposiums in the United States and in Mexico City, Toluca and Acapulco …. To athletes at schools and conferences…. To book clubs … to private corporations, but I have never enjoyed my time with a group of people as much as I did with these attentive and inquisitive second-graders.  We talked about reading, we talked about writing, we talked about dogs and guardian angels, and we talked about geography and foreign language.  It was a thrill to be carried all over the map by these wide-eyed boys and girls.

When I explained that Xylia calls me ‘Dziadek,’ I asked if anyone – other than Xy – knows what it means.  One little boy in the very back row raised his hand and answered, “Grandfather.”  “How did you know?” I asked in my amazement.  “I guessed,” he admitted.  Pretty good guess!

We ended the discussion remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the children were quick to follow my lead and ‘sign out’ with Reba McEntire’s “Pray for Peace.”  It was a fitting way to end the morning with a group of children who carry the future of our planet in the innocence of their youth.  As I personally pray for peace, I also pray that these youngsters never take their commitment to that dream for granted.

Mitakuye Oyasin,

We Are All ONE Family

Pray for Peace