Requesting Help in Haiti

Twenty years ago, I penned the opening sentence to my first novel, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.

“I was 12-years-old when my father took me to my first Olympic Games.”

I published the book six years later in 2008.  After eight novels, it remains my ‘best seller.’  Two decades ago, my writing mentor taught me that every manuscript must focus on a core message:  what is this book really about.  As I set to work on The Olympian, I was inspired by the words of clergyman, social reformer, and fellow New Englander Henry Ward Beecher (1813 – 1887), words I remembered from days of my youth,

 “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.”

Reverend Beecher’s sister by the way is Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  When President Abraham Lincoln met the reverend’s sister, he greeted her by saying, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

I interpret Reverend Beecher’s statement to mean that the value of a human being should be based not on what he does for himself, rather on what he does for others.

There are many ways to use our strength to serve our fellows and to lift their hearts from despair.  Charitable giving is one way.

For many years, I have worked with my friend Justin Ricot and his organization in Haiti to feed and inspire young Haitians and minimize the influence of the ever-present gangs that rule the streets.  This month, Justin was awarded the 2021 Cité Soleil Peace Prize.

Armenian cucumber

This year, my friend Dwight and I – with help from my wife and our youngest son and his family – have prepared 12,000 sq.ft of arid desert in hopes of creating a small farm.  Currently, we have 6,000 sq.ft. planted, and we harvested our first fruit – an Armenian cucumber – two weeks ago.  Our goal is to have all 12,000 sq.ft. planted by the end of August as we prepare for the ‘official’ outdoor market season that runs from October through May.  We intend to sell the vegetables we produce at local farmer’s markets and send 100% of the revenue we generate to Justin who manages Guepard Boxing Club in Cité Soleil, Haiti [GBCCS] on behalf of the children he serves.

We received Justin’s annual budgets last week.  The annual budget to feed 250 Haitian children four days each week after training sessions is $15,944.45.  The annual budget for activities that include athletic training and competition, street clean-up, tree planting, a trip to the National Museum, and other activities is $12,373.80.

A year from now when our farm is fully functional, we believe the revenue we generate can cover the food budget and even approach the total $28,000 annual budget.  In the short term, however, we need help to keep the kitchen open.  After a year of no activity due to the pandemic, Justin hopes to begin training again in September.

Charitable giving is discretionary.  Four years ago, my friends were able to raise $36,000.  With that money, we were able to feed and train 300 children four days each week after school, run a summer camp, stage the museum trip from the ghetto, and even send 20 children to school for a full year.  Since that time, funding has been much more difficult to generate.  We hope that the farm will alleviate the situation.

I humbly ask that you consider helping us feed and educate 250 Haitian children who live in the poorest, most dangerous ghetto in the Western Hemisphere.  I ask you to use your strength to help these children and raise their hearts from despair.

If you would consider donating to this cause, I will communicate with you directly.  Please fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post and I will personally contact you with more detail and answer any questions you might have.

In appreciation, I will send an autographed copy of the book of your choice to those who make a $25 or more donation.

  • The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas
  • The Hamsa
  • Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South
  • DWI: Dying While Intoxicated
  • The Sixth Day, A 17,175-word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting
  • Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ
  • The Faith of Job
  • The Vitruvian Man’s Book of Hours

I greatly appreciate your consideration of this request to help the children we serve in Haiti.  Please share this post with friends, family, and associates who you believe might be able and willing to help.


If you find it in your heart to help, please submit the contact form and I will respond personally to you and give you more details about the program, how it works and how to contribute.  Please use the message box to indicate any questions that immediately come to mind, and how you prefer I contact you: email or telephone.  Also, enter in the message box which book you prefer IF you decide to participate.


    The Sixth Day Film Update

    Time is relative as Tobit relates in Tobit and the Hoodoo Man,

    “I recall the night mother returned from the master’s house and explained to me that I was born in ‘eighteen-twenty-five.’  That knowledge meant nothing to me at the time.  As an old man, I learned that ‘1825’ was a year, and that a year was a measurement of time, the time it takes for the earth to travel around the sun.  That really confused me, because I thought the sun moved around the earth.  I saw it happen every day.  However long that passage takes – regardless of which body moves about which – I know that time is relative.  A long time to one man may be a short time to another.  A year is a long time for a man in bondage, but the blink of an eye to the man who enslaves him.”

    Third ManAs books and creativity go, I liken myself to the man in bondage.  Three years seems like a long time in the creative world.  Three years ago, I was one of the lucky ones: two of my books, The Olympian and The Sixth Day each carried film options.  That is an exciting prospect.  Since then, despite the intense efforts of the producer, The Olympian is no longer on the table and under consideration.  That’s too bad because I was hoping against hope to see Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins play the role of the poet Simonides who narrates the tale.

    During these three years, I’ve learned much about the film industry.  As Ringo Starr told us in 1971, “You know it don’t come easy.”  The Sixth Day was in the hands of Hoplite Entertainment, but in recent months, Hoplite shifted its emphasis from feature film to reality TV.  The Sixth Day – with a working film title of “Third Man” – was no longer a part of their vision.  I can accept that.

    bumpercrop filmsOn the positive side, no sooner had Hoplite orphaned the project than a new film company expressed interest in the story.  As of early February, the film prospects of The Sixth Day are in the hands of Bumpercrop Films under the watchful eyes of Alistair McKenzie and Jasmine Fontes who penned the “Third Man” screenplay for the original project and produced The Sixth Day audiobook.

    If two out of three wasn’t bad for Meatloaf, I can tell you that one out of two ain’t bad for E.S. Kraay.  Will The Sixth Day ever make it to the screen?  Don’t know.  Though tempted in a cavalier way to say, “Don’t care,” I will admit that I would like to see it happen.  In its current version, Alistair and Jasmine’s screenplay reflects the powerful message from the book:  there is strength in faith.  It is a message that needs broader exposure, and a film would help in that regard.

    I am grateful that the project is still alive and hopeful that something may come of it.  I will keep you informed.

    Collaboration

    OlympianFourteen years ago, I penned the first words to The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.

    “I was 12-years old when my father took me to my first Olympic Games.”

    Yesterday, I read a review on Amazon by ‘Kevin.’  I know nothing about Kevin other than his posted reviews on Amazon indicate he is an ancient history aficionado.  Kevin posted his review a month ago in January 2016.  I don’t often check my books on Amazon, but I am glad I checked yesterday.  Kevin’s comments are greatly appreciated.  He writes,

    Think of the most beautiful song you have ever heard. Now imagine reading a book that makes you feel the same way.

    That is the feeling I got while I was reading The Olympian. This profound novel was beautifully crafted, with bits of wisdom and many interesting passages. The exciting and inspiring writing pulls you along, and the imagery is amazing. What makes it even more fascinating is that it is (for the most part) based on real people and events.

    This novel really is one of a kind.

    Thanks, Kevin, wherever you may be.

    greener grassI am working on two manuscripts.  One will be my fifth historical novel.  In it, I express my remorse for the bad choices men make that haunt humanity through civilizations because we too often ignore the lessons that history teaches us.  The other is another quirky story along the lines of The Sixth Day.  It explores the oft quoted observation we’ve borrowed from bovines, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”  Is it?

    There are many methods to writing.  None is categorically wrong, and each brings value to the task.  My three personal guides are

    • On Writing by Stephen King
    • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    • The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, which Steven Pressfield recommended to me in 2002 when I wrote The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas

    I am immersed in a new approach to my writing in 2016, collaboration.  Earlier this year, a friend who writes gifted another friend and me the book Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac.  Bandersnatch discusses the collaboration of the Inklings, a collaborative writing group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien among nearly 20 other writers.  The Inklings would meet weekly to discuss their works in progress.  I was intrigued and asked my two friends if the idea interested them as much as it interested me.  It did.  A month ago, we began meeting every Monday morning for two hours beginning at 4:30AM.  You would never believe how quickly 120 minutes can fly.

    The weekly meetings – and other communiqués that we share with each other during the week in emails and texts – have been invaluable.  Criticism flows freely, positive and negative, and observations, suggestions and recommendations find their productive ways into my manuscripts.

    I am thankful to have special friends who are willing to do this.

    Poetry

    After I had completed at least three drafts of my first novel, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas, my friend Steven Pressfield suggested, “You might first fivewant to get a copy of Noah Lukeman’s book The First Five Pages.  I think you will find it helpful.”  That is a typical understatement from a great author.

    I had the book in my hands a week later, and – slow reader that I am – had finished reading its 200 pages in just a few days.  I was devastated, tried and found guilty of every trap Mr. Lukeman advises writers to be cautious.  I went back to ground zero and re-wrote The Olympian another three times.  As The Olympian remains my best seller, I must have done something right, and I will forever thank Mr. Pressfield for his sage advice.

    Over the years, people have come to me to discuss writing projects.  One of the first things I tell them is to secure a copy of The First Five Pages.  The pages in my copy have gone brown, the yellow highlights have faded, but the black ‘stars’ and underlines I’ve made over the years will remain forever.

    While the book overflows with indispensable information, the exercise that has been most valuable to me is presented in Chapter 3, “Sound.”  Mr. Lukeman writes,

    “Take some time to read poetry.  Spend weeks reading as many different poets as you can.  By devoting all this attention to the individual word, phrase and stanza, you will learn a greater attention for language, and this attention will eventually show in your own work.”

    I have read poetry daily since I read that paragraph in 2003.

    celticLast week, I discovered a new poet, Amairgen, one of the mythological Milesian kings who conquered Ireland.  As he approached the island and stepped ashore, Amairgen sang an invocation calling upon the spirit of Ireland that has come to be known as “The Song of Amairgen.”  Irish tradition claims that Amairgen’s ode is the first poem ever composed in Ireland.  I find great beauty and rhythm in “The Song of Amairgen,” and I think you will see, using this poem as an example, how poetry can inspire writers and improve their prose.

    Listen to “The Song of Amairgen” while you read

    I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,

    I am the wave of the ocean,

    I am the murmur of the billows,

    I am the ox of the seven combats,

    I am the vulture upon the rocks,

    I am a beam of the sun,

    I am the fairest of plants,

    I am the wild boar in valour,

    I am the salmon in the water,

    I am a lake in the plain,

    I am a world of knowledge,

    I am the point of the lance of battle,

    I am the God who created the fire in the head

    The Olympian, Eighth and Final Movement

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

    theagenes statueEighth Movement – The Exile Welcomed Home: Simonides completes his narrative.  The Thasians are humbled and now understand that it is indeed Theagenes and his statue that the Oracle refers to as “the exile that must be welcomed back.”  A year has passed and the old man returns to the island, thasoswhich has regained its beauty after the statue as been recovered from the sea.   “Thasos is once again a beautiful place … Theagenes’ place in history will be preserved…”

    The Olympian, Seventh Movement

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

    go tell the spartansSeventh Movement – The Grave: After Xerxes’ million-man army has moved on, Simonides and Theagenes descend the cliffs to the killing ground.  Exhausted, Simonides cannot resist sleep.  When he awakes, he finds that Theagenes has dug a trench “100 paces long.”  Simonides is reminded of the 12 “Labors of Herakles” and thinks of this as “the 13th Labor of Herakles.”  Together, they carry the Spartan bodies to the grave Theo has created with his raw, bloodied hands using the remnants of a Spartan shield, his hands wrapped in rags like they were once wrapped in himantes, the boxing gloves of an Olympic champion.  When they have buried the bodies, Theo sleeps.  As he rests, the poet composes his famous epitaph “Go tell the Spartans …” and chisels it into a stone marker they place above the grave the next morning.  “We embraced one another for the first and final time,” I wrote, “… he bowed respectfully, turned and walked east …”

    The Olympian, Sixth Movement

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

    leonidasSixth Movement – Thermopylae: Simonides follows Theo as the boxer flees from Olympia to Thermopylae carrying his Olympic prize.  They save days by cutting across the Corinthian Gulf where Theo waits for the old man.  As they approach Thermopylae from the southwest, they encounter the Phocian soldiers who were slaughtered by the Persian rear guard that found a way to circumvent the pass at Thermopylae via a goat path to surround the Spartans.  Simonides and Theagenes reach the cliffs overlooking Thermopylae in the final throws of the battle.  They witness the final stand of the 300  as the Spartans fall before a deluge of Persian arrows, but not before they hear the noble Persian offer of clemency from the king, “Brave Spartans, your valor in the face of certain death is unmatched by any men.  There is no shame in what you have done here.  Receive Xerxes’ mercy and return to your wives and children.  Throw down your weapons and be spared by the Great King.”   Leonidas responds with his immortal words, “Molon Labe! Come and take them.”  As Lampis and his Spartan brothers fall beneath the wave of arrows, Simonides turns to Theo and says  “Watch now, Olympian.  Turn your eyes back to the hill, for there is the man you dare call coward.”

    The Olympian, Fifth Movement

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

    The OlympianFifth Movement – The Olympic Games: Simonides tells his new friends what the games are like, the rituals, the ceremonies.  He relates the stade, the opening race, a 200-meter sprint, but focuses on the pyx, the boxing competition.  The Pyx is brutal and lasts the day.  Theagenes meets the previous champion Euthymos in the final match.  Theo destroys him in a brutal way.  That night, Simonides encounters Theagenes as the boxer steals his olive crown.  When confronted with his crime, Theo tells the poet that he will take the crown to Thermopylae where he will challenge Lampis to the fight Theo believes he was robbed of.  “When I find him,” Theo says, “we will fight on his terms before the army he has fled to join.”

    The Olympian, Fourth Movement

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

    theagenesFourth Movement – The Poet Meets the Boxer: After gaining passage to Thasos with the Egyptian merchant Khepri, Simonides recalls his journey to the 76th Olympiad and his encounter with a pair of Spartans who travel to the games with Leonidas’s message that he and his Spartan knights will forego the games and march to Thermopylae to check the Persian advance.  The first night in Olympia, Simonides meets Theagenes who is extremely irate that the Spartan boxer Lampis has left to march with Leonidas.

    The Olympian, Third Movement

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

    herakles bronzeThird Movement – A Boy like Herakles: Episcles, another Thasian relates the story when the boy Theagenes physically carried the large, bronze statue of Herakles from the temple to his home simply because ‘Theo wanted it there.’  His father Timosthenes, the priest of Herakles beats the child mercilessly.  The next morning, the boy has run away, never to be heard from until years later when he brings fame to his homeland from his exploits at the Olympic Games.