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.”
As 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.
On 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.
I include my family as my friends, and I include my friends in my family. I have more friends than a person like me deserves to have. Each one is special.
I have written plenty on my friend and associate Alistair McKenzie, but not so much about his associate Jasmine Fontes. If you look closely at the cover of our Rosie Christmas story, you will note that the music was produced by Jasmine Fontes. Take a look at the cover for 2012’s audio book The Sixth Day available on Audible, and you will see that it was co-produced by Jasmine Fontes.
Who is Jasmine Fontes? I will not destroy the mystery except by saying that I met Jasmine in Los Angeles several years ago, and that she is a
very talented young lady who – like Alistair McKenzie – is a writer, producer, and musician … the list goes on. I could say that she is a beautiful young lady, but as beautiful as she is, her talent exceeds her beauty.
This afternoon, I received a recording from my friend and associate Alistair McKenzie, a recording of my favorite part of George Frederick Handel’s Messiah, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born.” Jasmine sings the vocal and Alistair provides the guitar background. If I said I’ve heard a more angelic voice, I’d be lying.
With Jasmine’s permission, I invite you to listen to her inspiring interpretation of Handel’s “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” from the Messiah.
Thank you, Jasmine. You have made my Christmas and the Christmas of those who listen to this a bit better.
Each year, I offer a story to our subscribers and readers to thank you for your continued support throughout the year. I wrote this year’s story – Rosie, a Tale of Redemption – for my friend Jane Park Smith’s dog anthology, which she expects to publish in 2016. She graciously allows me to share the story on E.S. Kraay Online as my 2015 Christmas gift. Thank you, Jane.
I write stories. All are fiction woven around a truth that I hold with great conviction. Four of my six novels are historical, that is they are told within the context of events that actually occurred: the ancient Olympic Games; the Holocaust; the Civil War; the Roman Empire. The other two novels contain kernels of autobiographical truths, though I’ll not disclose the fact from the fiction.
I believe dog is man’s best friend, and that is the core conviction of Rosie. I believe dogs are so pure that I originally wrote The Sixth Day as ‘God’s only mistake,’ my belief that God created man because animals weren’t quite good enough. I softened the message and told The Sixth Day as ‘the day God almost quit.’
Rosie is a work of fiction. It is based, however on a story my friend has told me many times, the story of how his little dog saved his life, physically, mentally and emotionally. It is a story worth telling constructed around those kernels of truth that my friend has shared with others and with me. I have told the story in my own, fictionalized way with his permission. Thank you, Carl.
To retrieve this gift, go the the complimentary offerings page and scroll down to the Rosie download or simply click on the cover.
I hope you find value in this short story. Thank you for your support since the first words to The Olympian flowed from my pen in 2002, “I was 12-years old when my father took me to my first Olympic Games ….”
When Father Paul Coury, Director of the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Picture Rocks, Arizona encouraged me to witness and read the nativity sequence from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ in lieu of a homily on Epiphany weekend, I contacted my friend and business associate Alistair McKenzie – screenwriter, actor, director, musician – who produced audio books of two of my novels, The Sixth Day and The Olympian.
I am pleased to announce that Alistair will be making the trip from LA to Tucson this weekend to
read the story as Christians around the world commemorate the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. Epiphany concludes the celebration of the Christmas season.
Epiphany weekend Masses at the RRC are scheduled for
- Saturday, January 3, 2015 at 4:00 p.m.
- Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. and
- Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.
If you happen to be in the area this weekend, I invite you to attend one of the three Masses and join the celebration. Christian Music Minister Tom Booth is scheduled to provide worship music at all three Masses, and Father Greg Wiest will be celebrating the Eucharist.
Yesterday, 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.
Every 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.
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.
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 production 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 …..
In 1916, this is what C.S. Lewis wrote to his childhood friend, Arthur Greeves.
“Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.”
I think he’s right. Although I first penned The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas in 2002 through 2004, I didn’t move into high gear until 2008 with The Hamsa, and then I worked ‘after hours’ as I was still imprisoned by corporate America until I broke the chains in 2011. Through the years, I’ve produced nearly a million creative words.
- The Olympian 82,972
- The Hamsa 133,943
- Tobit 81,642
- DWI 111,841
- The Sixth Day 17,175
- Gaspar 138,000
That’s a total of 565,573 creative words.
I manage and write for three websites.
- The Vitruvian Man, which now has 602 posts
- ESKraay Online, 173 posts
- Tucson Poverello House, 21 posts
If the average post is 400 words, that’s 318,000 more creative words.
I’m closing in on a million words. Compared to Steven King and Dean Koontz, that’s not squat diddly – or is it diddly squat.
The other day, someone said to me, “But you’re retired ….” Retired? It is a fact that I left traditional employment several years ago. I tried to escape corporate America initially in 2002, but got sucked back in from 2004 through 2011 when I finally escaped with no regrets. Retired? One million words over four years when I moved into high gear is 684 words each day, 365 days a year. Try writing 700 creative words a day for one month. I challenge you. Tell me how easy that is.
I agree with C.S. Lewis. I do receive comfort from the process it takes to transfer an idea to a piece of paper.
When all is said and done, every week some reader somewhere makes my day with a comment on something I’ve written. That is not vanity as we’ve read all week in the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is a reward for the countless hours that go into each page that leaves my desk.
Last week, I was walking through the Redemptorist campus on my way to the monthly book club discussion. I converged on a path with my friend Sarah.
“I almost didn’t come today,” she remarked.
“Why’s that?” I countered. “Don’t you enjoy these discussions?”
“Absolutely,” Sarah replied, “But I only have 60 pages left to read in your new book Gaspar. It is one, incredible book, and it really pained me to put it down to come to this meeting.”
“Sarah, you just made my day,” I said with a broad grin on my face.
To quote C.S. Lewis a final time, “Ink is the cure for all human ills.”
Thanks, C.S. Lewis, thanks Sarah, and thanks to all of you who have read Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ and offered me your comments. You’ve made my day.
With the possible exceptions of The Olympian, a villain creeps naturally into each of my manuscripts.
German Untersturmführer Feldman, a Nazi plays an important role in The Hamsa. While it may be difficult to determine who the good guy is and who is the bad guy, there are a number of villainous candidates to choose from in DWI: Dying While Intoxicated. There is clear conflict in The Sixth Day, but it would be difficult to label Stashu, the white boxer or even Ernie Soldato, the gang leader as a villain. Here’s a teaser: In HopLite Entertainment’s screenplay for “Third Man” written by Alistair McKenzie and Jasmine Fontes there is a clear ‘villain,’ but I won’t let on which character can claim that title.
Of all my villains, I am most ‘fond’ of Wolfenbüttel, the overseer of the Nineveh Plantation in Tobit and the Hoodoo Man. Wolfenbüttel is a bad, bad man, and like Black Bart in “Christmas Story,” ‘he gets his’ in the end. Which leads me to Gaspar …
Early today, I received an email from Father Alexei Michalenko, former Chaplain at the Georgetown University Law Center. I was pleased with the opening four words
KUDOS!!! I loved Gaspar.
While I am apt to share more from Fra Michalenko’s commentary, I want to focus this post on villains. “I sensed so many connections in what I read,” Fra Michalenko writes, “Elements of characters from Harry Potter. Alexander and Flavian reminded me of Saverus Snape and Draco Malfoy.” For starters, I may be the sole person on planet Earth who has not read a Harry Potter book nor watched one of the films. Consequently, I was required to research the two characters to whom he referred.
What I share here is not a spoiler. For those who have not read Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ, Alexander is an arrogant, overly confident teacher at the Greek Ptolemaeum where Gaspar also instructs in 20 AD or so, and Flavian is a helper there and serves as Alexander’s aide de camp. Both characters surface again 10 to 15 years later in the most unlikely of circumstances. I will leave it at that.
According to Wikipedia, Saverus Snape
is a person of considerable complexity, whose coldly sarcastic and controlled exterior conceals deep emotions and anguish. … Snape is a teacher who is hostile from the start toward Harry and is built up to be the primary antagonist….
As for Draco Malfoy, Wikipedia tells me
Draco is characterized as a cowardly bully who manipulates and hurts people to get what he wants
As I think about my characters Alexander and Flavian, I could say the same about them except I would not characterize Flavian as cowardly … he is a bully for sure, but not cowardly. As I study the image of Snape on Wikipedia (portrayed by Alan Rickman), I believe Rickman would suit Alexander’s role well if the story ever went to film.
Given the length of the book, the reader will find other ‘villains,’ but none play the pivotal roles of Alexander and Flavian.
If you’ve read Gaspar, I think you will understand Fra Michalenko’s reference to the Harry Potter characters. If you haven’t read the book, you might consider putting it on your list, just as I will add Harry Potter to mine.
Stephen King is exactly two years and one week older than I am. We are both New England Yankees.
I never read his first book, Carrie, but I was hooked when I read his second novel, Salem’s Lot. I’ve only read 15 of his nearly 60 novels.
I’ve heard it said that if this or that is your favorite book, how could you have only read it once. There are only three novels I have read more than once, and Mr. King’s The Dead Zone is among them. The Body (“Stand By Me”) and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption are two of the greatest novellas ever penned. His collection Hearts in Atlantis stands by itself.
Early in Mr. King’s career, I noticed that every book culminated in a firestorm of one kind or another, and then he finally and blatantly put it all together with Firestarter.
As I’ve just recently completed my sixth story, it occurs to me that a dog plays a significant role in four of the six
I even included a falcon in Gaspar who serves as a guide and companion.
I recall sitting with a book club discussing The Hamsa many years ago, and one of the members asked, “Is that a real dog?” That is exactly the question I wanted to elicit. I won’t tell you in this post what his true ‘nature’ was. The same question could be asked of Caesar and the blind donkey in Tobit and the Hoodoo Man.
The truth is, I believe dogs are the purest creatures God has placed on the planet. I think that is why I cannot resist – rather, why I am compelled to include them in all of my stories.
When I first drafted The Sixth Day, the Old Man told the boys that God made one mistake: he didn’t ‘quit creatin’ after he made the animals. I rethought that statement and as the story evolved, the Old Man says that the sixth day was the day God ‘almost quit’ because the animals were so perfect and man had yet to taint the world with war and conflict and all of those other things that make our lives difficult.
I think dogs and animals – be they blind donkeys or falcons – will always be a part of my stories.
Catholic Saint John Bosco told many stories of a giant wolf-like dog whom he called Grigio. Whenever Bosco was in trouble or threatened by highwaymen on his many journeys to serve the poor, Grigio would appear out of nowhere to save him. I read those stories and truly believe that dogs are angels in beautiful disguise. I hope my conviction and belief comes through with the dog Raphael in The Hamsa.