Pencraft Award

Beleaguered Truth, book two of the Shattered Triangle Trilogy, has been award 1st place for literary excellence in the Historical Fiction category by the 2018 PenCraft Book Competition.

The award ceremony and dinner will be held on November 10 at Book Nook Inn located in Lumberton, TX. The guest speaker for the event is B Alan Bourgeois who is the founder and director of Texas Authors Inc.

Who Killed Cock Robin and JFK?

Cock Robin and John F. Kennedy are distanced by time and reality: Cock Robin the fictional subject of a poem from the 1700’s, John F. Kennedy the factual President of the United States in the early 1960’s. While both engage the imagination, they are separated by something else—confession. The sparrow owned up to killing Cock Robin. Nothing so simple occurred with the Kennedy assassination. Here we are, days away from the 50th anniversary of his death and there remains an almost 50/50 split in public opinion over whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, or in consort with others. One thing is certain. JFK was not killed by the sparrow.

Conspiracy theories can be fun. But they are often unenlightening. In the case of JFK, the possible conspiracies are so disparate as to be simply dizzying. Although not unimportant, the question of who killed Kennedy should not consume us fifty years after the fact. If Oswald was the sole assassin, case closed. But suppose he did not act alone. Why should it matter now? Most likely, any co-conspirators are long dead. Far more significant than who killed JFK is the effect his death had on the nation.

It has been suggested that the Kennedy assassination is the most significant event in modern American history. Perhaps that is hyperbole, but the statement sustains its own argument, for momentous changes emerged as a direct result of 11/22 (to use a current type of acronym).

On a practical level, there has been an explosion surrounding the president’s security in terms of personnel, equipment and expense. Additionally, poor communication by the Johnson Administration and the Warren Commission, left a diminished respect and trust of government in general. More philosophically, though, JFK was not the only casualty that November.

The days of Kennedy have frequently been compared to Camelot, the early 1960’s seen as another legendary time of hope and idealism. JFK was the symbol of a country rising from the ashes of war, reborn in youthful vitality. His death shattered this newfound innocence as effectively as the betrayal of King Arthur by Guinevere and Lancelot destroyed Camelot. In many ways Kennedy’s assassination scarred the American psyche leaving wounds unhealed to this day. Wounds that have grown only deeper over the years.

Kennedy understood that we are part of a bigger picture, a bigger world. In Germany, in solidarity with that world, he declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) Today, we have become more insular. We see only America. Within that America, we see only ourselves and we trust no one, not even each other.

During the Kennedy Administration Americans shared a common vision and purpose. From his oft-quoted inauguration address, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”, to his challenge to reach the moon within a decade, no president since, not even Ronald Reagan, has so united or stirred the common imagination. To the contrary, we seem to have very little in common these days. Arguably, we have not been this polarized since the Civil War.

In the early 1960’s America was birthing a rising and enviable middle class. Today that middle class is disintegrating. The disparity between rich and poor is greater by orders of magnitude. There is little concern for one another as our political world and daily life are turned into self-centered greed and a disdain for the less fortunate. Who is left to lead, to call forth our better selves? Is it any wonder that today seems so forlorn, that we look back so longingly on America’s Camelot?

Nothing since JFK’s death, not even revelations of his personal or professional weaknesses has managed to steal his image from the heart of the nation. John F. Kennedy has passed into the world of myth and legend, his memory still evoking a world of hope and idealism. He is honored best by reaching for the same future he envisioned and worked for.

The end of the poem reads:

All the birds of the air
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heard the bell toll
for poor Cock Robin

We, like the birds of the air, are a people left a-sighing. Mourning our president, our loss, ourselves. So what does it matter who killed JFK? Whoever it was, we must not let him kill our dreams as well. Maybe it was the sparrow after all.


The Great Midwest Book Festival

The Great Midwest Book Festival, has just announced its winners. Shattered Triangle garnered its 7th honorable mention, this one also in the category of General Fiction. Although these festivals are named and held regionally, they accept submissions from all over. It is a great honor to be recognized among some truly wonderful writers!

Check out the festival website for a complete of categories and winners. Congratulations to all the authors who won awards at this year's festival!


Professional Edit and Update

Shattered Triangle has finally been professionally edited. I was fortunate to find Barbara Fandrich from the State of Washington. She did a marvelous job and I cannot thank her enough.

I am now in the process of finding a traditional publishing house so that Shattered Triangle can receive better marketing and hopefully reach a larger audience.

I have also redesigned the website to make it more appealing. And I have begun working on a sequel, narrated by the character Giuseppe.

Time's Up! Law, Morality and Religion

It seems as though every aspect of life has been partitioned into an “us” v. “them” mentality. The most obvious example is black v. white--most obvious because it is so visually demonstrative. It has become the absolute metaphor for good versus evil, and right versus wrong. This is fine as far as it goes, but most of us do not live in an absolute world. Our lives are tinted by shades of gray.

The problem intensifies when we start applying that analogy to the real world, assigning goodness and evil to other people simply because they are different from us. This is particularly odious in the areas of morality and religion. And, no. They are not the same.

Moral values transcend religion in the same way that God transcends religion. To some that may seem incongruous, but the simple truth is that both God and morality existed prior to any concept of religion. Wrapping morality into one’s religious ideas, at least trying to make them synonymous, is an exercise in futility. It is certainly futile when one is in search of truth. At the same time, it is quite successful in creating a simplistic view for the simple-minded. But that has its own drastic consequences.

Several generations of white people believed that blacks were inferior. Some ignorant people still do. Who knows the actual root of such prejudice? Perhaps it was rooted in the economic and structural development of the Western world. But did such advances make the West more civilized? I suppose it depends on how one defines civilization. One thing is clear: The resulting prejudice defiled religion as believers sought to justify their bigotry in their faith.

A similar kind of discrimination occurred with women. In fact, choose your group and there is a prejudice to match. Many people of faith have continually twisted their thinking into knots to justify bigotry that has no rational foundation. And they have managed to complicate the matter even further.

Recently, people of religion have been making louder and louder claims to be the guardians of morality. Almost without exception, these claims to moral superiority are rooted in their religious values--values that are neither absolute nor universal.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage. There is nothing inherently immoral about same-sex marriage, nor about homosexuality itself. The morality exists only by way of social construct. And those constructs, like all moral values, differ from one society to the next and are always in a state of flux or evolution between generations.

To claim that religion determines morality is like saying religion determines God. Wait a minute. That is exactly what many believers do! They can only accept and believe in a God who conforms to beliefs they already hold. They are not about to be challenged by God. By extension, they can only accept people who believe and act the same way they do.

How else to explain the absurd refusal of some fundamentalist Jews to recognize a non-Orthodox marriage? How else to explain the absurd claim by Christian fundamentalists that non-Baptized people are going to hell? How else to explain the absurdity of Muslim fundamentalists who say that a person who converts from Islam should be put to death? How else to explain the religious belief that same sex couples cannot marry—a religious belief with a very uncertain ground in truth and no claim on the mind or heart?

Enter the law. One of the beauties of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are that they are not based in any religious tradition. The Declaration transcends faith, at least beyond the general acknowledgment that certain unalienable rights are bestowed by God. The Constitution transcends the contextual limitation of social morality, at least insofar as those same unalienable rights are inherent in being human.

The result of the American experiment in democracy is that law is the all important and ultimate measure of our society. Neither morality nor religion can make that same claim. A certain credit must be given to those who vociferously claim that God is being pushed out of public life, schools, etc. They have managed to distract many people from the truth. Many people, but not the courts. So a certain gratitude also must be expressed to those judges that have consistently held that God does not belong in public life and schools. The United States is not run on Christian or any other religious principles.

In this country the law is the foundation of our society. It should not be capricious, nor should it be dictated to by religious whim. Our Declaration of Independence states that all are created equal and endowed with rights. The rights mentioned are not meant to be all-inclusive. What is all-inclusive is the all people have these rights.

I disagree with the religious position of the anti-gay movement. It is a skewed and false reading of the Bible. But it does not matter. The United States is not a country based on the Bible, and that is a good thing. It is a country based on the law.

All people have a right to marry, black and white, gay and straight. I would like to believe that anti-gay is the last great prejudice to be overcome by our society. History suggests that as soon as we succeed, something else will spring up in its place. There will always be those people who seek to cast a black
v. white, a good v. wrong pall over the world of gray that is human life.

For now, times up! In the United States of America, law, justice and equality trump religion. Thank God! And thank the Founding Fathers!

Los Angeles Book Festival Award Ceremony

The Los Angeles Book Festival award ceremony at the Roosevelt Hotel was a great success. Honorees in attendance included authors from a variety of categories. Besides the winning book entries, there were honors awarded by DIY for filmmaking.

I had the opportunity to meet several other authors and learn what inspires and motivates them to write. Bruce Haring and his staff worked very hard to insure that this year's celebration lived up to expectations. By the end of the evening, they were clearly exhausted, but it was worth the effort. They did not disappoint.

The Great Southwest Book Festival

The Great Southwest Book Festival has just announced its winners. In the category of General Fiction, Shattered Triangle picked up an honorable mention. This is the third book festival to recognize Shattered Triangle!

Check out the festival website to learn about the many other winners. Congratulations to all the authors who won awards at this year's festival!


The Great Southeast Book Festival

The Great Southeast Festival has just announced its winners. In the category of General Fiction, Shattered Triangle picked up an honorable mention. The is the second book festival to recognize Shattered Triangle!

There are many good books that won honors. Check out the festival website for new reading materials. Congratulations to all the authors who won awards at this year's festival!

The World of Film

Although I use this blog and website to share information about my book Shattered Triangle, I also want to acknowledge the other forms of art that enrich our lives and our world.

Last week I shared information about some young musicians, three from the United States and one from South Africa. Today, I want to identify two talented filmmakers. Although this level of craft and ability can be found in film schools around the world, it turns out that both of these artists are graduates of the University of Southern California.

Forget the blockbuster Hollywood films. They may be fun, some of them may be good--even very good. But there is more to cinema than blockbusters. Here are two of the young filmmakers of today. Hopefully, they will also be around tomorrow.

John William Ross is a writer and director. John's films tend to delve into the deeper recesses of the psyche. Working in a different genre from the tired and silly modern horror films, particularly zombie movies, John gives his viewers the opportunity to examine their own psychological responses to life's situations, both imagined and real. This is terror genre worth watching. Forget the question WWJD. Instead, ask yourself what you would do. Maybe we should be slower to condemn people who seem a little off. Maybe some people really do see things the rest of us don't. Jon is the writer/director of the award winning Things Are Really Insane.

Christophe Nassif made his mark on USC a few short years later. Specializing in sound and directing. Christophe received a nomination from the Motion Picture Sound Editors for his supervising work on the award winning, The Maiden and The Princess. He won Outstanding 1st Time Director from the DC Shorts Film Festival for What to Bring to America, a poignant drama of an Ethiopian woman confronting the time for her daughter's female circumcision. Follow Christophe @twittophe.

New Twitter Account and the World of Art

Shattered Triangle has a new Twitter account. Follow @shatteredtri for news, updates and more.

The world of art is almost as diverse as the imagination. Today, I would like to focus on music, with emphasis on sounds from the U.S. and the mother continent, Africa.

Three talented musicians banded together (no pun intended) to form The Zoo Human Project. Jen Cordero @zhpJen is lead vocalist and also plays keyboard and guitar. Derek Martinez @zhpderek, the wiz of strings, plays guitar, ukelele--and he sings! Kevin Sakamoto @zhpkevin sings and plays percussion. Originally from Los Angeles, this popular California group now calls Sacramento home. Their well-recieved albums, Innominata and Naissance, built a solid fan base. Then, like all good American artists, they turned in their own renditions of some Christmas classics in a collection titled The Good List.

On the other side of the globe, from the southern-most country in Africa, comes David van Vuuren. In October of 2011, David @DaveFromFire won the seventh season of South African Idol. This pop artist is rather quiet on the outside, preferring to express himself in song and that he does with passion. After his Idol win, he joined the Universal recording family and tours for an ever-growing fan base.

Two continents. Two sounds. Music worth listening to and thinking about.