My writing, personal

One Last Performance

One of the things I’ve been able to do is pubish a few short stories. The one I’m about to post was my first. It was published in the Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology volume last year. I will have a longer story in the 2019 version. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Fiction-Atlas Press in two different anthologies: Counterclockwise which is a Time Travel Anthology and Beyond the Mask which is a Superhero Anthology written to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Both of those stories are too long for one post here, but I may publish them in parts, now that my contracts allow that. Tonight I submitted a story for their next anthology. It’s a portal anthology, which needs to include some kind of doorway to another world. If the story is rejected, I’ll be able to tell you more about it then. If it’s accepted, I can tell you about it in the publicity things I’ll be doing to promote the anthology. But, as celebration of submitting, here’s my first short story ever published.

One Last Performance

Jason looked at himself in the mirror, using an eyeliner pencil to make the last adjustments to his makeup. He had to support his right hand with his left to quell the shaking. “That’ll work,” he said out loud, even though no one could hear him. He still had a private dressing room, in deference to his past greatness. He might not have the starring roles anymore. He might make more mistakes in his lines, but he still commanded the respect of audiences and directors because of his reputation and his perseverance in the face of Parkinson’s.

There was a knock on the door. “Ten minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message. He waited for Jason to acknowledge the call, and then left.

Jason smiled. His timing on getting his makeup done was still perfect. Ever since he’d started in theater, he had done his own makeup. “It helps me as I become my character,” he had told countless makeup artists. And now, his routine to get into character would continue. He stared at the mirror, inspecting his makeup one last time. Satisfied, he slowly closed his eyes and went over the play in his mind. This practice had served him well, as he had earned three Tony nominations. He muttered softly as he told himself where to make his entrances and recited his lines.

He wanted this last performance of his career to be perfect and got so wrapped up in his preparation that he realized he must have missed the underling’s five-minute call. As the first notes of the overture began sounding, he cursed silently. His routine called for him to be ready in the wings before the overture started playing. Now, he rushed to get to his place, so he could take his centering breaths a few seconds before his entrance. His first starring role ever was with this director as “George” in Our Town and now, knowing Jason’s condition, this same director had made a special accommodation to allow him to begin this version of Our Town, as the Stage Manager, with the freedom to look back on his career and give the audience a chance to acknowledge their appreciation for the retiring actor.

They had flocked to see the once-great Jason Riordan in his last performance. Those who had acted alongside him including the first Emily and Stage Manager were in the audience, actors who had worked with him in the performances that had earned him his Tony nominations, and various assorted fans who wanted to pay their respects to one who, even in his ongoing illness, showed grace and respect to his fans.

He got to his spot on the wing with a little over a minute to spare, and he took a couple of cool-down breaths. Then, he did that which he had never done before in his career, he pulled back the curtain and sneaked a peek at the audience. The stage lights kept him from seeing much of the audience, but the memories he had made with those people he saw and recognized overwhelmed him and left him with a slight case of stage fright.

He closed the curtain and took another deep breath, and then, he was on. From that first, special monologue to his final line, he was perfect. He didn’t suffer from the dropped lines or cues that had plagued him in recent years. His swan song performance was amazing, and the audience recognized it. Audience decorum was thrown to the winds as his fans screamed his name and he took bow after bow. The stage hands picked up flowers that were thrown in congratulations. He left the stage triumphantly after one of his finest performances ever. He walked back to his dressing room accepting handshakes, hugs, and pats on the backs from the cast and crew of his last show. He kept looking at the floor, lest they see his tears, and by doing this, missed seeing their tears as well. He arrived at his dressing room for the last time and sat down, laying his head on the makeup table to rest for a few minutes before taking his makeup off one, last time. He didn’t want to take it off just yet, because that would make his retirement final.

There was a knock on the door. “Five minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message. He waited for the customary acknowledgment. There was none. He knocked harder and called out louder. When he got no answer, he ran in and saw Jason slumped with his head down on the makeup table. He checked for a pulse. When he didn’t get a pulse, he ran out in the hall and looked for a stage hand. “Get the director!” he yelled.

“Sir, the director’s …” the stage hand began.

He cut him off. “Don’t argue with me. Get the director now.” When he saw him hesitate, he added, “This is a real emergency.”

The stage hand finally believed him, ran off and came back with the director. “Jones, I don’t know what this is about, but it better be a real emergency.”

He gestured for the director to follow him. When the director saw Jason, he stopped in his tracks. “That how you found him?” he asked.

He nodded.

The director walked over and tried to find a pulse also. He teared up a little when he realized that Riordan was gone. He walked behind the body to get to the other side and looked at his face. He wiped away his tears and smiled himself when he saw Riordan’s smile. It was that shy, after-performance smile that he used when he’d look at the director and ask how he’d done. “It would have been one, great, last performance,” he said as he closed Riordan’s eyes.

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Blog Administration, Daily Work, personal

Dealing With The Day

Today, I re-started my practice of writing daily devotionals. I had a little hiccough in the process, though. I use an adblocker because, well, ads, slow machines, etc. There are many ads that are presented responsibly – adblocker stops those that are the most annoying. The site I use to keep track of my Bible Reading wouldn’t let me open it unless I paid them money or allowed ads. After allowing ads, the page took forever to load. (Yes folks, that’s why I use an adblocker.) Eventually got the page loaded and then, because the site broke verses into a and b sections, the whole thing didn’t show because those designations mess up the search algorithm and I had to work around that. ::sigh:: But, the devotional got written. If you read devotionals, you can check it out at Unmet Expectations or a Better Plan

I finally put that picture clicky thing you see in the upper right corner of the blog that will allow you to download a free copy of the July August devotionals. They are a bit longer than the new style I started today.

I actually did some work around the house: laundry, tree trimming, and grocery shopping. I still haven’t gotten back into photography. It’s a little harder to try and do when you have a dog around. I’m not saying the dog was a challenge to work with, but I did encourage my wife to suggest that her college have a “Take Your Dog to Work” day. She didn’t sound too hopeful. Oh, and I spent deliberate time reading a book by one of my favorite authors: R.R. Virdi.  He’s on my “buy it” list whenever he releases something. While this wasn’t my favorite work of his, he’s still one of my favorite authors.

Today was just a day…but God was in it throughout the day.

Blog Administration, personal

Can’t We Start Again, Please

This is a repost of my blog on my devotional page: Daily Enduring Truth. The devotionals I write daily, re-starting tomorrow, July 1, will appear there. I just wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned here, also.

The end is near! No, that’s not an apocalyptic statement, that’s a commentary on my self-granted three-month sabbatical. I stopped the daily devotional writing to do some self-reflection, to think about the process of writing the devotionals, and to think about their worth. What did I learn in three months?

The first thing I learned is that I need to write these devotionals every day to hold myself accountable for reading God’s word daily. There were many times in the last three months when I let my daily Bible reading slide because I got involved in doing other things. Usually, those things were non-productive. In the past week, I’ve played a lot of catch-up on my daily reading because of the number of times I’d let the day pass me by instead of giving God control of the day from the beginning. When I re-start tomorrow, it’s with the goal of making sure that I don’t fritter time away on unimportant stuff because I start each day by reading and reacting to God’s word.

I need to write these devotionals in the morning. I started off the year trying to write devotionals for the evening time – for people coming home from work. This brought about some of the same problems of letting things slide and then rushing to do a less than quality job, in my opinion. My character and writing style don’t suit an evening devotional (only) style. I may do research in coming months and years and try something like that again, but it would be an additional thought each day, not my only writing. While the idea excited me at the beginning of the year, it never succeeded in my mind because I wasn’t ready to do that just yet.

Part of what I was doing during this time was working on marketing. I did a few things to drive people to my books. I offered the July-August eBook version of the devotionals as a free giveaway on bookfunnel. I advertised. While I gave away a few free eBooks, and I sold a few more books than normal, I can tell you that three years ago when I retired, I thought I’d make enough to supplement my income in a small way. This is definitely not happening. To be honest, I’m not sure how to market devotional books. Someone asked me about doing an autograph and meet the author table and I told him I didn’t really see something like that. How do you autograph devotional books when the idea is to get people to focus on what God is or can be doing in their lives? I’ll put the bookfunnel link at the end of this post I case you need it.

One thing I started long ago was doing what I could to help other authors share links or comments about their books. I celebrated their successes and recommended books and/or authors through my social media. While I didn’t have anything for them to share at the time, I made a few comments about how I expected similar considerations in the future. Apparently, what I thought was a quid pro quo kind of marketing was more of a quid pro no situation. Perhaps these friends didn’t see my posts on social media, but for the most part, with a few exceptions, those I supported in the past were conspicuous by their lack of support for me. I understand that many of my author friends are not Christians, but they could have said something like, “If you’re a Christian, you may want to check out these devotional books by a friend of mine.” The lack of support and the lack of response from people I might expect to download a free book was disheartening. That being said, I’ll need to find better ways to spread the word about these books.

Why do I want to spread the word about these devotional books? One of the things I realized is that these books are my ministry. The call that I am answering through these books (the devotional series) and through my daily articles is to build up the body of Christ. I should have realized that at the beginning of the year in an exciting way. A pastor with great integrity contacted me and asked about using these devotionals for his church this year. He could easily have just put them up on his church site and I would never have been the wiser; instead, he contacted me and asked what it would cost to do that. In these days where lack of integrity runs rampant, I honored his integrity by giving him the rights to publish them on his website at no cost, because it would allow me to fulfill my ministry of building up the body of Christ. I take this ministry and this writing seriously, and I’m grateful for those who respect the work I do, hopefully under God’s guidance.

I’ve run into friends and people I’ve supported who haven’t seen this as a ministry. They’ve rejected my offers to speak about the need for spiritual growth. They’ve blown me off when I suggested that what I had to say might be important to the people that they work with. These are not strangers who’ve done this, these are friends: people that I’ve known and supported for years. One of my goals in the days and years to come is to help people understand that the work that I do as I write to build up the body of Christ is an important part of helping the body of Christ to grow.

What will devotionals look like starting tomorrow? I don’t know right now. I’m trying to find ways to be more succinct in my writing, but, as might be obvious, I tend to go on. All I know is that I will continue to share what God teaches me daily for anyone who wants to read. I may add a few wrinkles to the way I do things, but I will try to keep things substantive. If you still haven’t downloaded the July-August eBook version yet, you can download it without costing you a thing by going to this link:
https://dl.bookfunnel.com/4nw47oq9cd

 

 

Daily Work, personal

Life Happens – Stating the Year Over Again

I started this year with good intentions. I had plans. I was going to do a lot of work on promoting my devotional books. I was going to use this blog as a showcase for writing and for my photography, as well as giving people a behind the scenes look into the mind of one person who writes. (I can’t speak for all writers of course, just myself, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at what I’ve done and not been able to understand it.) Then life happened.

There’s an old saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. I don’t think God laughed and said, “You think so? Watch this!” I don’t even think God laughed, believing as I do that God foreknew all that would happen. I think God took me by the hand and said, “Get ready my child, life is going to go out of your control, but it will never be out of my control. Stay with me.”

In early January, my mother passed away. She was 90. She’d lived an amazing life. She beat death twice in previous incidents. There were tears, of course, but during this time, I learned a lot about lamenting. I didn’t even realize I was lamenting until my pastor mentioned the process in a sermon and I realized that he was describing what I was dealing with emotionally.

Then, an event that was planned a few months earlier came to pass: my daughter’s wedding. I had the honor and privilege of performing the ceremony as my daughter married an outstanding young man. I knew him before he started dating her and I thought he was amazing before. When I saw what great taste he had in choosing a life mate, how could I not see him for the amazing young man that he is. He comes from a great family too.

Life’s about to get crazier, because the next week, we flew to Orlando, Florida to celebrate my wife’s graduation as Dr. James. I joke about her letting me call her Dr. Wife, but she is just “Lucy” to anyone who knows her. I won’t go into all that she endured in the process of getting this doctorate, most people think that battling breast cancer and spitting in cancer’s eye during this time is amazing enough.

Then came the dog. When my daughter moved away, after her marriage, she took her dog with her. My wife had grown accustomed to petting her dog, so, we decided that we would finally get a dog that wouldn’t bother her allergies. She was younger than we thought. Rather than attaching herself to my wife, she attaches herself to me. But we do have a new boss of the family now.

When my wife went for her six-month checkup with her oncologist, she mentioned a concern. The doctor arranged for her to stop taking meds for a couple of weeks, because they might cause the pain she was experiencing. Lucy did that and then had no relief, so they did a bone scan. They found an area of concern. They did a CT. We are now awaiting a needle biopsy, tomorrow, and then the results.

In short, life happened, and a lot of my plans went astray. As I thought about those possibilities, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to start the year over in July? Maybe you’ve had a rough year and you haven’t lived up to your own expectations, because life happened to you, too. One area that easily gets dropped is our spiritual growth. That’s why I’ve been promoting my July-August devotional book this last month. It is free for those of you who use any kind of eReader. If you want to re-start your year spiritually as you seek God, I want to help. Click on this link and download your free copy of “Daily Enduring Truth: July-August.” If you like those devotionals, you can buy the other volumes later. If you decide these aren’t for you, you haven’t lost anything. Accept this free gift and start the year over.

personal

We Must Daw The Line Here

So, I saw this article this morning and was sickened: http://www.foxla.com/news/local-news/mega-church-leader-joaquin-garcia-arrested-for-major-sex-trafficking-crimes

Here’s my Rant….

I’m a believer in the strength and power of the church which is followers of Christ gathered together to accomplish God’s work. It hurts me when friends speak ill of the church. The church should be a refuge from the evil of the world and, when the church is in a right relationship with God, there is no better group of people to be around.

Sadly, the Church is under attack today and even more sadly, it’s deserved. Rather than being a refuge from the horrendous sin of sexual aggression, degradation of women, and rape, those sins are not only present in the church today, they have been whitewashed to the point that some ministers are using “the will of God” to coerce people, usually women, into sexual activity. This is inexcusable.

When the scandals first broke in the Catholic Church, many attacked them while noting that this couldn’t happen in their church. In the last few months, the truth has come out about Southern Baptists (the denomination of the church I attend), independent pastors, and some organizations on the periphery of Christianity. (Some religious groups are close to Christian, but they have moved away from the gospel in their theology.) All of those groups where this happens affect every church, everywhere. The Church as a whole suffers by the actions of these people – and sadly, it’s not just a few.

This morning I woke to an article about a pastor and members of his staff, referenced below, who seduced women and told them that if they didn’t comply with his desires, they were going against the will of God. That is sickening. That is disgusting. God’s people cannot allow that to continue. Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand – happening now. There is no place in the kingdom of God for such horrendous behavior. Paul rebuked the Corinthian Church for their acceptance of a sexual sin so egregious that people who weren’t Christians were shocked by it. Let’s be honest, Church, the world is appalled by the acceptance, and dare I say “baptism” of such grievous sin.

My pastor has made it clear that he will not sweep something like this under the rug. As members of our various churches, we need to get that assurance from our leaders and hold them accountable. One of the memes that I don’t like talks about what we do to teach women to protect themselves and asks, “Why don’t we teach men not to rape instead?” While I feel that it paints all men with a broad brush and implies that somehow, we teach men to assault women sexually; maybe there’s more wisdom in that teaching than I’ve been willing to admit. We still need to teach women to defend themselves, just like we all need to defend ourselves against other crimes against our person and our property, but we need to teach people how to relate with others as human beings of equal worth and value. We must regain a biblical view of personhood and sexuality in God’s Kingdom.

This is a message that resonates with the teaching of Jesus. It’s a message that the Church should be declaring with Paul who reminded us that we are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) We have failed in the past. But, we can no longer fall back into the grip of society’s mores. The line must be drawn here, to quote Captain Picard in Star Trek: First Contact.  For Christians, the solution begins with cleaning our own houses. We can’t turn a blind eye to the problem. We must recognize and repent of our sin that allowed this abuse to happen within the realm of the Kingdom of God. We must live and show the joy in living according to God’s plan for sexuality: chaste until marriage, fidelity in marriage. We must have respect towards others, and, this is key, we must avoid condemning others. People will not change because we condemn them. They’ll change when they see and hear about our joy in Christ as we live It every day. If you aren’t living in the realms of the Kingdom of God, you may object to some of the stated and implied positions. That’s your right and I’m not going to argue. All I ask is that you work with people who are like-minded to end this scourge among the people you can influence.