Why I Tell Stories

I recently finished reading The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum.  The book is sub-titled “Storytelling and the Search for Meaning.”  It is a powerful book that is capable of opening the heart and mind of anyone who reads it.

In their chapter on gratitude, the authors write, “Stories speak the language of the heart, giving us the means to express our gratitude.  Among the greatest of modern spiritual storytellers is Elie Wiesel.  A survivor of the Holocaust, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize (1986) …”  In his acceptance speech, Mr. Wiesel said

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Kurtz and Ketchum conclude, “And that is why we tell stories.”

One year ago, immersed in research for Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ, I read Five Biblical Portraits by Mr. Wiesel (1981).  I had discovered a little known connection between the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah and ancient Ireland.  I call him Ollam Folla

Nobel Prize
Elie Wiesel

in the book, and Mr. Wiesel’s chapter on Jeremiah helped me understand the prophet far better than I could have by ruminating over the Bible.  Here is what Elie Wiesel writes

“When kings cling to powerful protectors, it is always at the expense of their attachment to God.  True, the Temple exists and is open for services, … but the holy sanctuary seems something of a club.  People go there to meet one another and discuss politics …  Prayers are too bothersome.  A few well-chosen offerings and all problems are solved … The image Jeremiah likes to use is that of a prostitute.  He is not against her taking money for her services, he is not even against prostitutes; he is against rulers acting as prostitutes, repeating the same words to different people, thus leaving them devoid of any meaning, forgetting the words of God – and worse:  forgetting that they have forgotten … To forget means to deny the relevance of the past.”

“To forget means to deny the relevance of the past.”  Therefore, remembering is essential, and THAT is why I tell stories.

I am never comfortable with the title ‘author,’ and feel much more at ease when I think of myself as a storyteller.  Stories can speak to us of things past, present and future.  Stories carry meaning and whether they are true stories or fiction stories, by their telling, they beg to be remembered.

If you glean and remember one thing from my stories – from my books or my posts – that clarifies one unclear thing in your life, then time spent telling them is priceless.

That said, I invite you to read a story told to me by my friend JD.  It is posted in two parts on another website I help out with.  JD’s story of falling down and getting back up is something you will remember and something that can change your life or the life of someone you love.  This is why we tell stories!

Part I: Into the Heart of Darkness

Part II: Where There is Despair, Let Me Sow Hope

Gaspar Available NOW at Amazon

GasparI am pleased to announce that my new book, Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ is available now at Amazon.com.  The Kindle edition will be available soon.  As described on the book cover,

E.S. Kraay’s Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ is the story of one man’s remarkable search for truth.  Told in the words of an unwitting wise man, the narrative spans four decades from young Gaspar’s time at the Kanheri caves in India with the ancient Buddhist Vajrabodhi to his witness of Christ’s crucifixion at the behest of his friend Pontius Pilate. 

 In the intervening years, Gaspar translates ancient scrolls on the shores of the Dead Sea under the tutelage of the Zadokite priest Barjadek, and ten years later, he instructs at the Greek Ptolemaeum in Athens where he meets a mysterious boy from Judea.  Always thirsting for knowledge and committed to his quest for truth, Gaspar embarks for the end of the world where the sun sets to find the Earth Mother.  Mentored by the druid Evenor in ancient Fál, he discovers that truth is the same at both ends of the world and that a new era is about to dawn, an era foretold in ancient writings from many sources including the book from Atlantis his Keltic friends claim is written in the language of the moon.  Certain that the time is now, Gaspar journeys to Rome and befriends Pontius Pilate and his wife Procula.  At Pilate’s invitation, Gaspar returns to Judea where he believes he will find the Lord of Righteousness.

 Steeped in history, abounding in spirituality and rich in insight, Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ will challenge the notions you hold of people and places you think you know.

Gaspar has been a two-year journey for me.  At times, the research seemed overwhelming, but like my protagonist, I was committed to completing this search for truth.  I hope you find value in the book and enjoy the story as well.  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.

A Plug for Carbonite

When I began ‘writing for real’ in 2002, a good friend strongly advised me to keep good backup of all my work, especially the work in progress.  Through the years, I’ve tried many things but finally locked into Carbonite about two years ago.  Good move ….

Yesterday morning, I saved my 2013 photos to disk — it required seven disks — and proceeded to delete the photos from my hard-drive.  Then I emptied my recycle bin.  Thinking all was well, Marie and I headed into the desert for a good, 5-mile hike.  When I returned and attempted to log my hike miles into a spreadsheet I’ve used since 2009, I realized something was wrong.  Within minutes, it was clear that I had somehow and quite inadvertently removed countless documents from my computer including the ‘writing projects’ file that contains my working manuscript, all 100,000 words of it that has been in progress since May 2012.

To say I was distraught is quite the understatement.  I immediately clicked on the Carbonite icon and went to the restore section.  The first thing it says is, “Take a deep breath … all is not lost.”  I did, and added a prayer to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  I proceeded with the instructions.  At first blush, Carbonite estimated it would take 35 hours to restore my computer.  I hit ‘next’ and walked away.  That was around 3PM yesterday.

When I woke up at 4AM and came into my office, the process light was not blinking, suggesting that the restore was complete.  I took another deep breath and searched for my ‘Gaspar’ file.  It was there along with all of the other files I could have lost without a backup system in place.

As I writer, I could have lost two years’ worth of work.  Even if I wasn’t a writer, the files I could have lost — while not the end of the world — would have put a major dent on my day.  The moral of the story …. regardless of what you do with your computer, I strongly recommend you have an adequate backup system that can help you with an emergency like I experienced yesterday, a situation I would not wish on anyone.  Happy New Year ….

Where Ideas Come From: The Hamsa [part II to post]

One reviewer from Colorado wrote about The Hamsa,

“… Mr. Kraay has fashioned a life of a simple man who lives a life of heroic virtue… If there is a ‘trick’ to the narrative, it might be Bronek’s meeting such historical figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Sonja Henie and Heinrich Himmler ala Forest Gump, but these meetings are plausible and serve the story line…”

As much as I love Winston Groom’s novel Forest Gump and the subsequent film of the same title, it was not on my mind as ideas flooded my brain on how to tell this story of dignity.  The more preliminary research I did, the more frequently I came across historical names of note.  As I craged the story, it was very reasonable for me to think that my protagonist, Bronisław Czech [Bronek] could have crossed paths with a large number of notable personalities.  The pre-war Olympics were not populated by thousands of athletes, but by only hundreds.  at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, for example, over 2,500 athletes competed compared to the 231 athletes who participated at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1932.  It was easy for me to envision that my handsome hero may have been a romantic interest of Sonja Henie, or that he might have had a personal conversation with Franklin Roosevelt.

Research breeds ideas, reasonable and logical ideas that can enhance and energize the core values of any manuscript.  While some stories naturally require more research than others, the very act of research can uncover new ideas worth pursuing on a current manuscript or a subsequent manuscript.  Do your research.