New book: “Only Love Can Break Your Leg”

(Apologies to Gene Pitney and Neil Young.)

My new book has just been released on Amazon. You can find the paperback here and the Kindle version here.

This novel is a straightforward romantic comedy. Don’t expect any messages, life lessons, or philosophy. Instead, I hope you find romance along with a few laughs… all accompanied by a series of minor mishaps by our protagonist. This was intended to be light summer reading but it was delayed. However, summer is not over as I write this so there’s still time to sit on a beach (maybe in a sweater 🙂 ) and get lost in someone else’s romantic misadventures.

Who couldn’t use that these days?

In Memoriam: Frederick Buechner

(JUL. 11, 1926 – AUG. 15, 2022)

This world has lost a giant. A giant of writing, a giant of speaking, a giant of faith. Frederick Buechner was a teacher and a preacher, a memoirist and a novelist, a wit and an intellectual, a man of God and what Mark Heard might have called a “profane saint”. There isn’t enough room here to list all his honors, never mind his prolific written output. (You can read his Wikipedia page for that.) It’s enough for me to say that his writing changed my life. I’ve never read anyone who was more honest, more challenging, more comforting, and more eloquent while doing all that.

Pulitzer prize winner Annie Dillard called him “one of our finest writers.” She’s absolutely right, but that’s just part of the story. His authenticity about his struggles with life and faith and God set him apart from other writers, thinkers, and theologians. He was a modern-day Jacob, wrestling with God but sharing the experience with anyone who was wise enough to listen.

The great thing about the written word is that it survives long after the scribe is gone. Mr. Buechner’s words were no “scribbling in the sand.” They will be set in stone and read by many for as long as time endures because we will always need them. I commend those words to everyone’s attention.

I trust that upon his passing, he heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Opportunities for me and you…

Maybe because spring is a time of new beginnings, this time of year presents loads of opportunities of so many types. Here is my list of opportunities for you to give and receive in the coming days.

For the month of March, Old Mill House Coffee in Chelmsford, MA, is celebrating Read Across America Month 2022 with “Blind Date with a Book”. Stop by and choose a genre to a get gift-wrapped copy of one of the many books by local authors. Maybe you’ll get one of my seven books!

Which book will surprise you?

That’s not the only event at Old Mill House Coffee this month featuring local authors. To celebrate International Writers Day (which was actually on March 3; better late than never) they will hold “Speed Dating with a Book”. On March 27, you can read snippets of a series of books and decide which one you want to spend more time with.

For more information or to register, click here or on the image to the left.


A new documentary about Multiple Sclerosis will premiere at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts on April 2, 2022 at 2:00 PM. (2’s are wild! 🙂 ) The film is called Who Is MS? It’s a profile of people living with MS and thriving in spite of the obstacles the disease throws at them. If you have MS or know someone who does or you simply want to increase your awareness of this devastating condition (after all, March is MS Awareness Month) this movie is a must see. Come to learn, come to be inspired.

Tickets are free but seats must be reserved in advance.

For complete details and to view the trailer, click here or on the image to the right.

Or reserve seats now by emailing:

whoisms.movie@gmail.com


Last opportunity: Support the fight against MS.

A group of cyclists, some with multiple sclerosis, will participate in a fundraiser on Martha’s Vineyard to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. We call ourselves the Vineyard Square Wheelers for two reasons. First, living with MS is like trying to ride a bike on square wheels – it’s possible but it ain’t easy. Second, our sponsors are the good people at Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites.

To support our team, click here or on the image to the left to reach our donor site. You can support the whole team or individual riders.

Thank you for your consideration.

Announcing: The Next Innovation in Blogging!

Let’s face it. The only consistent characteristic of this blog is its inconsistency. The last post was over two months ago. I estimate the average time between posts for the past few years has been over a month. There are two primary reasons for this lag:

  1. When I write a post, no matter how trivial or how brief, I tend to overthink and overwrite. That takes time, time I can’t always spare. As a result, I don’t even try to start a post until I have a solid topic and adequate time to devote to it. I hate to shortchange my deepest reflections… or (more often) goofy scribblings.
  2. I’m kinda busy. In addition to life, which takes up a lot of my time, including weekends, I’m trying to finish my documentary (details to come) and publish my next book before April. Chances of achieving both goals are slim. Still, I need to give it my best shot, which means there’s precious little time to give this blog the attention it deserves.

To solve this dilemma, today I’m announcing a new concept in blogs:

Blog Snax©

These are short blog posts suitable for a quick bite (and a quick write) so that I can be more consistent while not putting in more effort than I can spare. The concept comes from the world of exercise, a field near and dear to my central nervous system. For people who need to exercise but lack the time and/or energy, “exercise snacks” are recommended. (q.v.) For writers who want to devote most of their time to their highest priority projects while not completely ignoring their blogs (e.g. me) Blog Snax© are the way to go.

This post was supposed to be an example but I’ve already spent almost an hour on it. 😦

Maybe next time. Stay tuned…

FAQs

(Any web site worth its salt has an FAQs page. Mine has never done so. That could be an inhibitor to its growth from a platform for a curmudgeon trying to unload his lame scribbling to a viral social media giant.

Or not.)

  • Why do you bother with this blog after seven years of almost complete reader indifference?

A fair question, one I’ve wrestled with many times. The most obvious is ego. Having a blog allows me to pretend I have something of import to say, when it’s highly doubtful I do. That’s a self-defeating concept since, as you so clearly and painfully point out, no one appears to be reading it. Ouch! (Thank you for not noting my other blog, “Limping in the Light”, which experienced a similar lack of impact for 10 years. Oh my.)

Another, more reasonable excuse is the desire to sell books. I have seven out there as of this typing (2021) with one more in the works. There’s an infinitesimal but non-zero chance that Oprah will happen on this site and discover that my novel about Haiti, “A Slippery Land”, is perfect for her book club… which it is.

Finally, I just like writing. It’s enjoyable and it’s therapeutic.

  • Have you read the new Andy Weir book, “Project Hail Mary”?

Yes, and it’s great. Similar to “The Martian” in both style and entertainment value. Highly recommended.

  • Can I borrow ten bucks?

No.

  • What’s the deal with that guy in the commercial who points at all your junk and it just goes away?

Nothing is more annoying to me. Our stuff doesn’t just “go away”. There is no “away”. Living under that delusion has brought this world to the predicament it’s in today.

  • How many Frenchmen can’t be wrong?

Last I checked, it was 1,000,000. That might have changed.

  • Is it true that Dick van Dyke was originally cast as the lead in the old movie, “The Omen”?

That’s what I heard. It would be a very different movie with him instead of Gregory Peck, don’t you think? It might have been a musical.

  • Why do people say “dial the phone” when there hasn’t been a dial on a phone in decades?

The same reason my father used to tell us to turn off the gas on the electric stove.

  • How about five bucks?

Okay.

  • Why do motorcycles make so much noise their riders can’t hear themselves think?

They aren’t missing anything.

  • Then they turn up their music above the sound of the bike?

Go figure.

  • Is my call important to you?

Yes, and it will be recorded for customer satisfaction purposes.

  • Where can I get your awesome books?

On Amazon or from me directly.

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have no intention of growing up.

  • What’s the meaning of life?

The Westminster Catechism says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” That works for me.

  • Who are your favorite actors?

For some reason, my favorite actors tend to be more commonly in supporting roles as opposed to carrying a movie. Among those that come to mind at the moment are Stanley Tucci, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Zahn, Michael Pena, and a bunch more I can’t think of right now. I appreciate people like these folks who (1) are humble enough to take smaller roles, (2) flexible enough to play anything from drama to OTT humor, and (3) make every movie they’re in better.

  • Have you heard the one about the…

Yes.

  • What does “clockwise” mean?

You were born after 2000, weren’t you?

  • $7.50?

Give it a rest!


(Let me know if you have any more questions you need answered.)

Free screenwriting seminar

Everyone loves movies but how many people know what goes into a screenplay and what part it plays in the filmmaking process? If you’re interested in learning more about the answers to these questions, come to a free seminar I’m teaching on the basics of the craft of screenwriting. This seminar will be enough to get you started so you can study further on your own. Or, if you’d rather participate in a guided study, I’ll lead a longer class later in the year at the same location.

The free introductory seminar will be held Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 11 AM at The Artisans Exchange in Chelmsford, MA. If you’re in the area and this topic interests you, come by and learn more.

Satisfaction guaranteed or double your money back. 🙂

Have a Hallmark Train Wreck Christmas!

Returning to writing screenplays is a significant adjustment after writing nothing but prose for the past four years. Reading quality screenplays and watching good movies with an eye toward dialog, character, and plot has helped me get back on track. On the other hand, there’s value in coming at it from the other direction.

It’s a truism that we should learn from our mistakes. To disagree with that adage would be foolhardy, but there’s a better way: Learn from others’ mistakes. That way, you can avoid some of those mistakes in the first place and still come out fully informed. That’s the rationale behind watching bad movies. And when you talk about bad movies, this is the best time of year for them.

No, I’m not talking about wonderful holiday films such as “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I’m talking about a relatively recently created genre: The Hallmark Christmas romance movie.* There is a long list of immutable truths about these denizens of the holiday airwaves:

  1. Though there are dozens of them, all are minor variants of about three distinct plots. (Lest we sit too high on our horse, the same can be said of most superhero movies.)
  2. There is an ensemble of (usually) Canadian actors who take turns playing the leads.
  3. There’s a cute kid… who can’t act.
  4. Each features at least one washed-up sitcom star in a minor role.
  5. Although there is lots of talk about faith, belief, and fate, there is exactly zero reference to any of the spiritual aspects of the season. None. Nada. Zilch. Ever.
  6. If any of the protagonists spent any time being honest with each other, the movie would end after 15 minutes because all the misunderstandings would be resolved.
  7. The Kiss, which is always delayed until the final two minutes of the movie and is preceded by multiple near misses, is 100% antiseptic, and is performed with less passion than your average oil change.
  8. As with a train wreck, however, I can’t keep my eyes off them.

Re that last item, I confess it’s true. I watch a dozen or more every year. My expectations, which couldn’t be any lower, are rarely met, never mind exceeded.

Why do I put myself through this? They have all the suspense of a game of tic-tac-toe, the ending of which, like the Hallmark movies, is set in stone from the first move. There is almost never a new plot.

(Example template: Successful woman comes from the “Big City” in an attempt to convert a beloved local establishment into an impersonal commercial development, until some colorful local characters resist her, causing her to give up not only the project, but her home and career to marry her childhood sweetheart, an amiable fellow in a flannel shirt with a permanent three day growth of facial hair with whom she’d had a misunderstanding after the Big Game in high school, but not before a last minute appearance by the woman’s fiancé, who arrives from said “Big City” wearing a Brooks Brothers suit worth more than the other guy’s pickup truck and almost puts the kibosh on the burgeoning romance.)

Three reasons I watch these things almost against my will:

  1. Most of them are graphic lessons in how not to write a screenplay.
  2. I’m an incurable romantic and hope springs eternal (some of the time) that one of them will actually be… well, romantic.
  3. Occasionally, very rarely, one will rise above the dreck and actually be pretty good. In those few cases, I don’t have to waste another half hour of my life bemoaning the fact that I just wasted an hour and a half of my life.

The truly embarrassing reason I watch them, one I hesitate to admit, is that I want to write one.

Yes, it’s true! I would love to write the movie that rises above the miasma of the typical holiday romance porn. In fact, I’m doing it now. In truth, I’m rewriting one of my general romantic comedies to align it with the genre.

Yes, I’m a Christmas mercenary. So be it. At least I’m a romantic mercenary. ❤


* Other networks have noticed the popularity of these movies and have joined Hallmark in this orgy of quasi-romantic, quasi-Christmas tales. Ion and Lifetime are cranking them out almost as plentifully, often with better quality.

Priming the pump

You ain’t a writer if you don’t write

Much to my embarrassment, the last time I wrote a real blog post for this blog–not a shameless advertisement for one of my books–was January 23 of this year. (My other blog is not much better. Last post: August 16, 2019. And that one was preceded by an eight-month hiatus.)

Mea culpa.

Once I completed The Endless Cycle (a four-book series for middle-grade readers (all installments now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions (I couldn’t resist (sorry)))) I decided to take some time off to regroup, relax, recover, rethink… and do some jigsaw puzzles.

Time’s up. I have to put something out here to prime the pump for my next large-scale project, one as yet to be decided. So here goes: A brain dump of random strange thoughts that have been piling up.

Lessons I’ve learned from my grandchildren, Part I: Any truly good book has stickers at the end.

I don’t think, therefore… am I?

I love Maine. It’s a beautiful state. My favorite spots are Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, or as we say in Boston: Bah Hahbah and Arcadier National Pahk. (Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t discard our “r”s, we recycle them.) I have one problem with the state, however. They need to put a moratorium on the use of the pathetic pun “Mainely” in their advertising and business names. Driving around the state, you’ll encounter “Mainely Lobster”, “Mainely Antiques”, “Mainely Burgers”, “Mainely Brews”, and Mainey more. Enough already.

Speaking of Maine, on my last trip there, I saw this bumper sticker:

I thought it was a souvenir, but then I noticed it was on Donald Trump’s car. Makes perfect sense.

It’s a shame that the common expression is, “sweat like a pig.” Two fun alliterative alternatives exist: “sweat like a swine” and “perspire like a pig.” Just sayin’.

Here’s some word weirdness that makes me say hmmm…

  • Overlook and oversee are opposites. As are “look over” and overlook. Yet an overlook (noun) is something you should look over rather than overlook.
  • Loosen and unloosen mean the same thing.
  • Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.
  • Valuable and invaluable aren’t quite synonyms but they aren’t the opposites one would expect, given the spelling. Invaluable, in fact, means more valuable. Go figure.
  • A one-way mirror is the same thing as a two-way mirror. Good thing streets aren’t like that.

The English language was obviously created by committee.

The Endless Cycle: Book 1

I’m pleased to announce the reason for my recent absence from the blog scene: My new book, Breakaway, the first in a four book series intended for middle-grade readers, has just been published.

The description on the back cover gives you a good idea of what you can expect in the book:

A boy with no past finds himself on an endless bike trip looking for answers. What is his name? Where did he come from? Where is he going?

When he comes to town on the local bike path, he’s befriended by a compassionate single dad and his phone-obsessed daughter. But will that be enough to protect him from suspicious police, a crime ring, and a man with a gun, hot on his trail?

Join him in this first exciting adventure in the Endless Cycle: Breakaway!

I will deliver each of the next three books in the series separated by no more than two months, approximately May 1, July 1, and Sept 1.

If you know anyone in the 10-16 age range (or anyone else who likes a good story) who is looking for some good reading, please check out “The Endless Cycle”. You can find the paperback and Kindle e-book today by clicking the image above or by visiting my Amazon author page here.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this or any of my other writing.

Thank you for your support of independent authors.