Storyteller About: A New Beginning.

            I tasted death.  A series of mini-strokes on December 30, 2012, four days in the hospital, buckets of cost later and I am not the same.  We only have so much time, and I have so much to do.

            I was born a storyteller.  By the time I was six and beginning to read and write, my imagination overflowed with other worlds and other times.  I discovered the greatest story ever told and it captured my heart.  Story became my way of expressing myself and to both explore and understand the world.  If I had been born in a tribal society I would have had an honored seat at the campfire, but by 1960 my world had already lost the time, patience and interest in tales of the imagination.  Movies were spewing out stories with an overabundance of romance or for the special effects and a chance to blow things up.  Nothing was to be gained by those.

            By the time I reached sixth grade, I was scribbling ideas, notes and drawings, tales of the imagination, and found I was drawn to adventures such as boys used to love.  Verne, Wells, Haggard, Stevenson, yes Dickens and Twain.  Of course I loved Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and really all of the Inklings.  I searched the deep past and found Homer, Virgil, Beowulf, Bunyan and Swift and discovered that Oz, Never Land, Wonderland and The Back of the North Wind were never far away.  I found the writers of the Golden age of Science Fiction, E. E. Doc Smith and the rest, and writers of my own early age from Addams to Zelazny – too many to count.  These sustained me in the wilderness, and the wilderness is where I went after high school.

            I had boxes, files and an entire desk full of ideas, with some stories, some book beginnings and a play or two.  I was the boy, ready to start my adventure.  If just one person believed in me and my stories, the whole universe might have turned in a different direction.  But no.  The enormous pressure to do college, to find work, to have a family and then die was upon me, and I did not have the backbone to follow my heart.  I spent most of the last 40 years in some position or other where I could tell stories and express my tales of truth and glory, but my time belonged to others, to the grind that ate life and to the silent tears that cried out, “This is not what I am supposed to be doing with my life.”  If I say I wasted the last 40 years in the wilderness I would not be lying.

            Then I tasted death.  I am near 60 and on more medication than I can name, but the stories have not gone away.  They have strengthened to where now I no longer have the will to escape the words.  I have no doubt I will write furiously until I die and still not get all of the stories written.

            Somewhere in my wilderness years publishers invented a new category of fiction: (middle-grade)/Young Adult.  But this fine idea has been taken over presently by sparkly romances and the Princess collection because young women read.  The heroine saves the city, the world, the universe in a thin plot whose main purpose is to bring two people together so they can fall in love.  I am sure there are plenty of young women who enjoy reading what Paganini would call variations on a theme. 

            At the same time, I have heard over and over that young men don’t read.  The back of my mind screams Potter, Unfortunate Events, Olympians, but the front of my mind says it is not worth arguing with agents and publishers that there is still a market for the likes of Robert Heinlein, James Blish or John Brunner.  I don’t have ten years to devote to such arguments and nonsense.  What?  So I can see something in print when I am 70?

            Instead, we have all gone digital.  So will I.  I can start putting stories up for E-readers and POD books and maybe audio books fairly quickly.  My sons are talking about the possibility of reworking the Avalon series into comic book form.  We will build a website, do some book promotions on film for YouTube, and probably participate in giveaways through Amazon Select.  Of course, if you actually buy the works I will be grateful.  My life has not exactly been one to include much money or much success.  Perhaps because my heart was not in it.  But let me be clear: my job is not to get lost in social media and dubious promotions.  My job to get as many of these stories finished as possible before I die. 

            I will do my best to keep you up-to-date as time slides by. 

            Meanwhile, on this blog I am going to start posting Avalon, season 2 as a Monday, Wednesday, Friday post.  God willing I won’t suffer a relapse or be that one-in-three who suffers a massive stroke and becomes completely incapacitated.  If you are so inclined, pray for me.  I am finally doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  Let us hope there are still enough years to do it.

— Michael

Wednesday Thoughts: Words to Consider.

To all my writer friends struggling to write that novel:  Sneer at whatever gets in your way, laugh at whatever is blocking you and break the bonds of whatever is holding you back.  Remember, restrictions are almost always self-imposed.  Listen, this is what I have been thinking lately.

1.         You have to believe in yourself because maybe nobody else ever will, at least on this side of success.

2.         If writing is your calling, your purpose in life, your reason for being, your source for joy, understand that this desire was not given to you without reason.  The end of the road that turns away is a dead end with a big sign that says “regret.”

3.         Don’t let your past control your future.

4.         Your future is waiting to be created.

— M G Kizzia

And you can quote me.

Series: Dreamchild Story: The Most Important Lesson M/F Story

            The ground was covered with a cold white blanket where the fresh snow had fallen under the moon and stars.  Bobby got up early.  He loved the snow; but sadly that day was a school day despite the winter conditions.  Mama wrapped him up snug and tight in a hat, coat, mittens and scarf and sent him out the door.  The school yard was three houses up the street and through a wood too small to hold a house but big enough for a stream to run through.

            Bobby decided to have some fun on his way to school.  He made great footprints in the snow, jumping from foot to foot and leaving a wide space between, he imagined it was like the footprints of a grown-up or maybe a giant.  On the last footprint, he slipped and fell flat in the snow and all of his clothes got covered with white and wet.  He decided then, that since he was already wet he might as well make some angels.  Lying flat on his back, he moved his arms up and down and his legs back and forth until wings appeared in the snow.  When he was satisfied with his great work, he moved on to a new spot.  He did not want to be late for school, but this was fun.

            By the time Bobby reached the little wood there was a regular path of angels.  The snow began to fall lightly as Bobby decided to build a snowman to guard the angel way.  The bottom snowball was easy to make and it rolled right to where he wanted it.  The middle snowball was harder, taking him farther from the snowman, and it was heavy.  The top snowball was smaller and lighter, but making it took him into the woods.  He noticed it was warm in that little shelter, and hardly snowing at all.  He put the head on the snowman and smoothed his creation as well as he could; and then he found some pebbles by the little stream which he used for eyes, nose and mouth.

            He went back to the stream in the woods.  It was only finger deep, even in the summer, and a giant step across at the widest part.  Bobby noticed where the wind had cleared a small section, but there, instead of running water, he found ice.  His rubber boot crashed on the ice and made a delicious sound.  Crunch, crunch, Crunch!  He marched up and down the stream like an army of soldiers until there was nothing left of the stream but puddles of frigid water. 

            This army needs a fort, Bobby decided, and he set about building one, rolling great snowballs up to the water’s edge.  There were seven for the base and six on top, and finally five on the very top.  He carefully shaped them from round balls into blocks, and stood back to examine his work.  It was not right.  Instead of a fort, he needed a castle.  Three more blocks spaced on the top gave the appearance of a real castle, and with that he could set about making ammunition.

            Bobby could count to twenty but that hardly seemed enough, so he made another twenty and then he used them against the invisible army of the enemy.  He threw his snowballs against the trees and against certain bushes where the enemy was hiding.  With the last snowball, Bobby won the war.  Everyone cheered and celebrated the winner.

            Suddenly, Bobby stopped and listened.  He heard someone calling.  It sounded like a man calling for Robert; but Mama told him to stay away from strangers so he hid behind the castle wall.  It seemed like a long time, but it was really only a few minutes before the man went away; and Bobby thought he had better go, too.  He did not want to be late for school.

            There was a hill to climb to get out of the woods and on to the school yard.  Near the top, Bobby’s foot slipped on a piece of cardboard someone left by the woods.  He tumbled and slid back down the path that ran between the trees, and came to a stop near the stream.  Someone else might have been frightened, but Bobby decided it was fun.  He raced to the top and pulled the cardboard free of the snow.  It was a carton top and it was just big enough to sit on.

            Bobby used the carton top like a sled and raced down the hill, this time all the way to the stream.  Once was not enough.  There were several trips, running to the top and sliding to the bottom before the cardboard finally fell apart.  On the last slide, the cardboard stopped short on a grassy spot that had rubbed clean of snow.  Bobby fell forward and his face and hands went into the ice cold water of the stream.  He shivered, but he knew he could warm up as soon as he got to the school.  He ran across the school yard.

            When he reached the school room door and stepped inside, he was surprised by what he saw.  The teacher gave him a mean look, the children stared, some open mouthed, and his mother was there.  She had been called.  She raced over and scooped Bobby up before he could even take off his mittens.  Everyone asked him where he had been.  He was just playing.  He did not know what else to say.  Then he found out it was nearly noon and he was not only late for school, he was in big trouble.

            Mama took him home, dressed him in warm pajamas and put him in bed.  She made him some hot soup so he would not catch cold, but she was angry with him, and that made Bobby afraid of what his Daddy might do.  He spent all afternoon in his room, in his bed, unable to nap for fear.  His father told him to go to school.  It was what he expected, but Bobby did what Bobby wanted instead and he upset everyone and made everyone worry; and now he was in trouble.

            When his father’s car pulled into the driveway, Bobby nearly started to cry.  He heard the kitchen door, and shortly, Mama came and took him by the hand.  She led him to the living room where Daddy was waiting in his high back chair.  The terrible stern look on his face made Bobby draw back.

            “Come here, son.”  Bobby’s father said, and as Mama pushed him gently, a reluctant Bobby inched forward.  “First things first.  Come here for the most important lesson.”  When Bobby was close enough, his father reached out and drew the child up into his lap.  And then Bobby’s father spoke.

            “The first thing you need to know is I love you.”  He kissed Bobby and hugged him, snug and tender, making him feel warm.  Bobby put his arms around his father’s neck and returned the hug; and then he did cry, at last, but he was not unhappy.  He knew he would be punished for making everyone upset and worry, and he knew he would have to do a better job of going to school; but he also knew that as long as his Daddy and Mama loved him, everything would be all right.

            All of us are tempted from time to time to follow what we want rather than what God asks of us; but as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Nothing can separate us from the Love of God.”  It is sometimes important to remember that first and most important lesson.

One Writer’s Writing Secrets 3: Something to Say

I am still enjoying Mark Twain.  Love him or hate him, the man could write, and more importantly, in the American tradition, he could tell a good story:  Tom Sawyer at home and abroad with the Tramp and the Innocents (roughing it or otherwise on the equator), Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, Pudd’nhead Wilson, and the great Connecticut Yankee which I believe he named just to see how many times he could find Connecticut misspelled in the reviews.

            Motive for writing in the first place is as difficult as trying to pin down a motive for murder (a close kin in some cases).  I think, though, Twain was on to something with the notice he gave at the beginning of Huckleberry Finn:

NOTICE

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR

Per G. G., Chief of Ordnance.

            Writers want to say something – at least most have something to say.  Some do write mainstream drivel in a sort of stream of consciousness (Zzzz); but I believe most want their views about life, liberty and the pursuit to be heard.  (Unlike the Blues Brothers, they may not be on a mission from God, but still…  And whether or not what is said is worth listening to is another debate).  But whenever a writer focuses in on what they are trying to say instead of on the story, the writing is lost, abandon ship!

            Mark Twain was first of all a storyteller.  All the great writers were.  Even a socially conscious writer like Dickens first told a good story. 

 

Writing Tip 3:

I cannot speak for the plot because that might be a handy thing for a story to have; but as for motive and moral, I recommend not thinking about them at all.  Yes, I believe every piece of writing should have something to say, but while in the writing process, I recommend just focusing on telling a good story, and I believe the motive/moral will shine through without help, thank you very much, and maybe some other things not intended will shine through as well, things which may turn out to be pretty good!  (I hadn’t thought of that).  We can call it stream of unconsciousness writing.

One Writer’s Writing Secrets 2: Finding your Voice

            I just finished rereading Huckleberry Finn, so if I break out in a twang, please bear with me.  (I ain’t agwyne do’t if I can hep it).  Dialect is a bear, and not recommended – unless it is who you are, and you know the dialect like the proverbial back of your hand (and your spelling is consistent).

            Allow me to share a bit of family folklore that floated down to me from my writer brother in Alaska.  It concerns a person named Tom (not Sawyer, but of the same type as I hear tell), though how true the story is, I cannot say.

            Tom went to the University of Michigan for one semester where he had a Freshman English professor who said something like this:

            “Tom.  You have a wonderful voice when you speak.  It is lively and very different from the dry papers you have been turning in.  You know, I believe you have the potential to be a good writer, but you have to stop trying to write the way you think it is supposed to be written.  Instead, I want you to try writing in a way that is most natural to you.  That is the secret to good writing.  Try writing the way you talk and it will be much better.”

            Now, Tom decided that was good advice; but if his best writing was simply writing the way he talked, and since he already knew how to talk, he also decided there was no more to be learned from that institution; so he dropped out and wandered his way up to Alaska where he took a job hosting a national radio show for NPR and writing just the way he talked, and though I don’t want to give everything away, the end of the story is if you ever go traveling across this country, I am sure he will “leave a light on for ya.”

Writing Tip 2: 

For most of us our talk can get pretty sloppy and might not be a good guide, but on principle, don’t worry about the way good writing is supposed to be writ!  Write the way that is most natural and comfortable for you.  That is your voice, and it will invariably be much better than imitating someone else.

God’s Health Care Plan: Healing the World

It was 2000 years ago a man named Jesus came out of Galilee saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  It is near, or as some rude person in our day might say, “It is in your face.”  Curious… 

The people in that time and place were under the thumb of the Romans and many were not happy with that reality.  The society was fragmented.  Pharisees and Sadducees were like Democrats and Republicans: in charge of things more or less, but fighting each other and even fighting among themselves.  Many people had dropped out altogether, to form communes or live as hermits in the wilderness.  Zealots, what the Romans described as terrorists, were committing great acts of rebellion or great crimes of murder depending on who was describing those acts.  And the common people were looking for a way out: they wanted a leader, they wanted hope. And there were plenty of men and some women no doubt who were glad to step in and be that leader.  The countryside was littered with teachers, preachers, prophets, healers, miracle workers, the wise and the foolish, the sincere and the charlatans.  Many people were wary.  

That fellow John gathered quite a few followers at one time, but then he had the stupidity to insult one of the Roman Provincial Executives and he got himself arrested and eventually got the death penalty.  People might not have thought that was fair.  There were plenty of worse offenders, mass murderers and the like, sitting on death row filing appeal after appeal; but you know, when such things are decided for political reasons, they aren’t always fair.

So now this fellow named Jesus has come saying Repent (like John said), and adding The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  That was the new part, sort of.  Some scholars asked him once, “Is this a new teaching?”  It was not.  Not really.  Back then, the people basically understood what this “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God” was all about:

They understood that God did not approve of any sickness, trouble, hardship, social collapse, disease or death; but then they also understood that God did not break the world.  We did.  God did not sin.  We did.  God didn’t start the trouble.  We are the ones who rebelled.  We turned our backs, and some are still turning their backs on God and we began all the trouble by our rebellion.  Now, this broken (sin filled) world plagues us and our brokenness has come back to haunt us in the form of struggle, disease and death.  That isn’t God’s fault.  Everyone understood that.

And they also understood that this broken condition was not supposed to be the end of the story.  Clearly, it was not God’s intention that we be stuck in this brokenness forever.  The prophets made that clear, for example in Isaiah (35:1-10):

            The desert and parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom…

            …Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

            Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy…

            …and the ransomed of the Lord will return.

            They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.

            Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

The Kingdom was the place (and time) when all of the brokenness in this world would be fixed, which included every disease being healed.  It was the place of no more tears.  But this Kingdom; it was like a nebulous thing, a promise for some far off future that had nothing to do with present day living.  People had to deal with their troubles, today’s being enough for today, and not live in some La-la land.  So here comes this Jesus fellow saying the Kingdom is near and you can be sure many scoffed.  “Yeah, right!  What Kingdom?”

I imagine Jesus smiled and responded something like, “This Kingdom,” and someone got healed.

The deaf dumb and blind could hear, speak and see.  Skin conditions, paralytics all got healed.  Some, so they claimed, even got raised from the dead and restored to life.  No wonder he gathered such crowds.  Yet he took the most curious position on it all.  “Don’t tell anyone.”  He would say.  Of course, they did tell, and the crowds reached the thousands where he had to borrow some fish and bread to feed them all.  But why would he say don’t tell?  How curious?

Well, it seems to me he did not want to be lumped in with all of the charlatan miracle workers and so-called healers already gallivanting around the countryside.  Obviously, he did not want to be seen as just another mumbo-jumbo magician.

Peter was perhaps the first to understand when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”  I always imagined Peter stuttering a bit as he was inspired to respond.  “You are the K-K-King.”

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  And Peter understood that Jesus was the King of God’s Kingdom, which of course meant that Jesus was God.  Who else would be King of God’s Kingdom?

Enough people understood this on Palm Sunday to lay palms at his feet.  The Sanhedrin understood this in the last week, enough to accuse him to each other:  “The man makes himself equal with God!”  They told Pilate:  “We shall have no King but Caesar!”

But what they did not grasp was:  He did not come to heal and restore God’s rule over the earth right then and there. NOT YET.  God!  That HAD to be a disappointment to a lot of people.  But instead, he came to tell us about the time (the Kingdom) that was coming – still in some nebulous future – but also to demonstrate it in his life so we would know it was a REAL promise, no matter how far in the future it might be, and then he came to offer himself up on the cross as the Lamb of Sacrifice so that when the time DID come we could receive mercy, not condemnation for our rebellion.

Now he is gone.  He has ascended into heaven, as the confession says, and we are left to carry on.  We are to “Walk in His Steps,” to live with the question “What would Jesus do?”  We are the disciples now.  We are the Peters of the world, and it is now in our hands to demonstrate God’s Kingdom to the world.

Consider where Jesus, in his ministry, showed the power and the presence of God’s creative, loving Spirit and brought healing to our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical lives.

  • Where there was evil, he brought goodness.
  • Where there was condemnation, he brought forgiveness and mercy.
  • Where there was darkness, he brought light.
  • Where there was prejudice and hatred, he brought Love and justice.
  • Where there was emptiness, he brought fullness and meaning.
  • Where there was war, he brought peace.
  • Where there was sickness, he brought health.

All of this is healing in the broadest and best sense.  The gospel of Mark begins with the words, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  The Good News is news about the reign of God in the whole of our lives.

Now, I cannot speak for non-Christians, and might not be able to speak for all Christians, but for those who are followers of Christ, here is what I see:

We are to pray for those who need wholeness of every kind and as we pray for the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well being of others, we can do so with the sure and certain knowledge that these prayers flow from the heart Christ himself.  And sometimes, even in our broken, rebellious day, God heals.  The details of where, when and how the healing of persons takes place is totally in the hands of God; but the faith and trust that this is the will of God is in our hands.  (Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven).

After that, we are to heal in every way we can; healing “even the least of these” without regard for what people can pay. 

We need to NOT heal the left hand while destroying the right as in healing the body while throwing the family into bankruptcy. 

We need to heal without regard to “pre-existing conditions,” without exclusions by insurance companies (in employer monopolies) or limits by “cost benefit analysis” (as in the proposed government monopoly). 

No one should ever be put in the position where they are made helpless and hopeless and are encouraged to die and as Scrooge said, “Decrease the surplus population.”

We need to reward those who have dedicated their lives to the healing professions and find a way to protect those who do their HUMAN best from being sued. 

We need to encourage the drug companies and hospitals, through the use of profit and fair competition or by some other EFFECTIVE means to develop new and better drugs and therapies in order to stay on the cutting edge of what we humans can do to heal.

We need to each do our part to bring wholeness to this broken, troubled world.  This is what Jesus did, and it is what we should do as well.

That is what I think.  What do you think?

–Michael   “Word & Spirit: The testimony of two.”