The night before Christmas, looking back on a writing year.

This has a been an amazing year for my journey in writing. I almost gave up writing. Not that I didn’t love to write, it was that I wasn’t getting any readers.

I hadn’t figured out the mystery of Amazon and its mighty search engine, therefore, readers couldn’t find me, buy my books and give me feedback.

That all changed several months ago. I put my first book, Polar Bear Dawn, permanently free on Amazon. To my amazement, people began downloading my book. They even read it! Then they posted reviews, and most of them liked what they read, and they bought my other books – and they liked those as well.

The result was, I’ve become an author who has an audience. That is a very nice feeling. For those who liked my Bernadette Callahan RCMP Detective series, there will be a short story, a prequel and another in the sequel to Pipeline Killers coming out in 2017.

I’ll also be publishing a narrative non-fiction of my journey of finding a half-brother I never knew about. The book will be called Half Brother Blues, Chasing my Mother’s Ghost and finding her secret son.

Next year I’ll be changing my website, offering another free short story and building a mailing list where readers can get notification of my new stories. Yes, this is a whole new world for me, and I thank the readers who got me here.

A writer without a reader is Turkey with no stuffing, eggnog without the nutmeg or…okay, I’ll stop, as I’m making myself hungry. Safe to say, that a  writer need readers and readers need writers. When we find each other, it’s a wonderful thing.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and happy reading to you wonderful voracious readers who make the world of writing possible, and happy writing to all you writers who live in your own heads and make the magic happen on paper.

 

 

 

Posted in pushing boundaries, Uncategorized, writers journey | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Trump, Russians,Ballet Boxes and Twitter. This is a Fiction Writers Dilema.

As a Canadian fiction writer, I admit I’m getting a bit addicted to watching the American Presidential Election. Never, in all my years have I seen such wonderful elements for a fiction novel.

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump claimed that the Presidential election would be rigged, then a week later, a report comes out of a Russian Internet hack of an American Electoral Polling station.

I sit back home , drinking my Canadian beer, eating my nacho chips and almost choke as this news comes out on CNN. Really? Seriously? This is what a fiction writer would do, the perfect story arch, as the protagonist, (Trump) is either thwarted or helped by the (antagonist) the Russians.

Meanwhile, all of this is playing out in 144 characters as if this were news that we should all believe.

The Elevator Pitch I would have given 10  years ago (had I known)

There is something we authors do, it’s called an elevator pitch. You imagine yourself in an elevator with a publisher or movie producer and you have only so many floors to pitch your story before they get out.

So, here goes;

Me: Mr. Publisher; great to meet you…

Publisher -get to the point, you’ve got 5 floors.

Me,(audible gulp), okay, a presidential race in  the future in America.A dark horse candidate enters. He’s a businessman.

Publisher – a successful one?

Me. Well…sort of, he’s done all these casinos and hotels, some go bankrupt, but he’s done this great reality T.V show and a  Ms America Pagent.

Publisher. I’m not seeing it. How is this believable?

Me. He abuses everyone.

Publisher. He what now?

Me. He calls Mexican and Muslims out, gets down on them, tells everyone they’re rapist and terrorist.

Publisher. the Mexicans are terrorist?

Me. No, sorry, the Mexicans are the rapist, the Muslims are the terrorists.

Publisher. I’m finding this offensive, my wife is Mexican.

Me. Sorry…I, ah, well thats how the story goes.

Publisher. I don’s see anyone buying this.

Me. It’s fiction sir…it’s a futuristic novel.

Publisher. Nah, I don’t see the market in a novel like this. See yah.

The door opens. The publisher walks out and I’m left there mouthing…but what if I have him win?

To those of you Americans who are reading this and love Trump, my apologies, and to you who hate him, I offer the same.

The key element is, as a fictional character, Trump is a dream to any writer who wants someone who would galvanize the left and the right.

I have only the election movies, the Manchurian Candidate or the Ides of March to compare, and quite frankly, none of these come close to what’s going on.

I’m sure the non-fiction writers will have a field day trying to assess how all of this came about, and how a reality star Billionaire with multiple wives, and bankruptcies  could galvanize a nation.

None of that is for me to decide. I’m mostly a fiction writer, and I’ve never seen such great theatre playing out before me.

Again, my apologies to all those offended by this, however, if you found some humor in it, that’s what I write. You’ll find the first three chapters of my novels at http://www.lylenicholson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fun with fiction, Pushing boudaries, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The gift of a wave in Hawaii.

I was in Hawaii a few months back and as always I’m  impressed by the local Hawaiians. Most of us never see how the locals interact amongst each other, we’re too busy marveling at sunsets or checking when happy hour is for cheap MaiTais.

But there is a feeling of Aloha here, that isn’t in the greeting that the desk clerk gives you or the guy trying to sell you a time share on the beach in Ka’anapali, the real Aloha is much deeper than that, it’s often the gift of sharing or giving.

I witnessed this on Waikiki beach, on our second day in O’ahu. My wife had never been on an outrigger canoe to do a surf ride. These things are marvelous in the water. They can weigh over 2,000 pounds, but when an experienced Hawaiian oarsman is on the tiller, they   can be made to ride the surf almost to the shore.

We found a captain, Dennis, who took us out on a 6 man outrigger with his crewman. My wife and I took in instructions as we dug our paddles into the blue water out to the surf break.

Then we waited with other surfers for a wave. Captain Dennis watched each wave come, and when he saw the right one, he yelled “Nalu,” in Hawaiian which meant wave. We dug those paddles in as hard as we could and then we could feel the waves pick the big boat up. With paddles raised high, we road that massive outrigger towards the shore.

I didn’t notice the old man on his surf board until we came out the second time. I’d seen him walk by us on the beach sometime before. He was thin, his skin an almost ebony with long grey hair and gentle face. He wore a simple swim suit that did nothing to hide his bony frame. I couldn’t tell if he was Asian, Hawaiian, or a Caucasian who’d been out in the sun all his life and just baked a hard and brittle brown.

Our second time out, Dennis said, “here comes a really big wave, you’re going to love this one.” We both waited, paddles raised for the command to dig hard. It never came, the big wave passed under our boat.

The old man paddled hard and caught the big wave and we watched him ride it like a magician towards the beach. He was light and masterful, his feet moved on the board as if he was playing music.

We caught another wave. I have no idea how big it was, but it was sufficient to move our big boat. We had another great experience. My wife loved it.

When we came back out for our third surf with the boat, we paused in the line of surfers. The old man was there, he called out to Dennis, “I thought you were going to take that big wave.”

Dennis said, “No, I left it for you.”

The old man simply said, “Thank you.”

And that was it. I witnessed this spirit of Aloha, and giving that happens amongst Hawaiians. Many of them have lost their land, and had to fight to retain their heritage, but here on the ocean, one Hawaiian could give the gift of a wave to another.

I learned later from a local who was renting a kayak to me in Ka’anapali that the truest form of respect is to give. This is the sincerest form of what Aloha means to Hawaiians.

I thought about this on my return flight back to Canada. Hawaii has so much to offer in it’s shops and classy stores. On Waikiki Beach you can purchase a Rolex watch or a special handbag for thousands of dollars.

But to give the gift of respect to and old man, to allow him the feeling of joy as he takes a perfect wave towards the shore…that is priceless.

I hope you enjoyed my little story. On my website, www.lylenicholson.com I have left the first three chapters of all my four books for your review.  Thank you for reading my blog.

 

 

 

 

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Trump World. How would fiction writers describe this?

I have no idea if Donald Trump will become the Republican Candidate or if he will be elected as the next President of the United States.

I am a Canadian. Along with 35 million others up here, we look vicariously at the dog fight that is taking place in the United States. I believe it’s called an election.

In between our frequent spring snow storms in Eastern Canada and the thawing hockey rinks in Western Canada, American politics is better than watching a slow hockey match with no fights breaking out.

So what if the Donald, as some like to him, does get in?  The stars align for him this time and he throws enough dirt at Hillary Clinton to get into the big office?

I’m not a politician, but I am a fiction writer. We fiction writers have been writing alternate universes for the world, the USA, and some have even come up with alternates for Canada.

Some would ask, that if Canada became a strange new republic, who would care. Or, more importantly, who would notice? America, as the largest economy and with the greatest military (Russia and China will disagree,) is the country that everyone notices.

There are several fictional novels about new republics in America and North America. One of the earliest was Robert A. Heinlen. His story, If this goes on, was about what might happen to Christianity in the USA, given mass communications and a hysterical population. In the book, the borders with both Canada and Mexico were blocked.

Margaret Atwood wrote a book, The Handmaidens Tale, that was made into a movie with Robert Duval. Atwood’s story was of a totalitarian Christian Theocracy. Her heroine finally escapes and makes it past the blockades to Canada. The rebels revolt to take over the dictators.

We’ve also had the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen struggles to survive amidst the ruins of North America where only the Capital (a place reminiscent of ancient Rome) has plenty and the districts struggle to live.

The famous Isaac Asimov, in his The Foundation Trilogy, writes of a being called the Mule, who is genetically altered and can overcome the minds of others. He almost takes over the universe.

So, there you have it. Four other writers who’ve written about alternate worlds when someone or some new force come into play. What would my story of a Trump World be?

Trump World 2017

Donald Trump takes office January 2017. He immediately asks Congress to invade Iran, Syria and just about any other Arab country that he dislikes. They refuse. He yells, “You’re Fired.”

This doesn’t work for President Trump. He realizes he can’t fire Congress or the Senate or anyone else except his own staff. Someone forgot to tell him that at his briefing. He calls his minions. His great horde of followers who love him. They take up arms, as American’s has more weapons at home than most other countries do in their army, they form an army and storm the capital.

The American Army does nothing to stop the rabble. The half of the army that is Republican stops the other half that is Democrats from intervening. President Trump is now in charge. He’s going to get things done.

He throws up walls between Mexico to stop illegal immigrants. He throws up a wall across Canada to stop terrorist Muslims from creeping in and he throws up huge trade tariffs on Chinese goods so America can make all the things in America and everyone will have a job.

In six moths a problem develops. No Mexican’s illegals mean that the hotels aren’t getting cleaned. No one is picking the fruit or working in the meat packing plants. This work somehow is too hard for regular Americans.

China retaliates the high tariffs on their goods by shipping everything at cut rates to Russia and India. America finds they are can’t make anything for as cheap as China made them and they miss their cell phones.They start to protest outside the White House. Trump wants everyone shot.

Even the Republican Army has a problem with shooting their own citizens. A groundswell of  everyone with a small amount of common sense starts to revolt.The economy is in ruins and everyone is mad at everyone else. America is not great – it’s just angry.

Trump sees the writing on the wall. He abdicates the Oval Office and makes a run for it. He sets up in a small Carribean island with several of his faithful and starts another reality T.V. series.

Does this sound crazy. Silly? What would you write? Do you believe that Trumps world would be amazing? Go ahead then – write it. Do you think it would be worse? Go ahead and write that.

I wrote mine in about 250 to 280 words. This was just off the top of my head from watching the current news. Do I believe any of it? Not really. I’m just having fun with fiction. And if we can’t do that with words, then what are words for?

I wish all of you happy writing and reading and look forward to seeing some of your stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fun with fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Steve Martin and I have one thing in common – we’ve both killed books.

I don’t put myself in the same category as Steve Martin. He’s a great comedian, actor, and  accomplished writer.

I’m a highly unsuccessful Indie writer and Steve Marin…well, what can you say, he’s written over forty novels and numerous screenplays. My favorite of his novels is Shop Girl and L.A.Story. There are some who love his campy, The Jerk, I admit I’m one of them.

The one fascinating thing I learned about Steve Martin in an interview he gave was how many times he dropped a book that wasn’t working. Now wait a minute. How is that possible? Isn’t every book idea we have incredible?

Well, apparently not. Steve Martin recognized it, and over the years, I’ve come to the same conclusion. When I first heard him say he dropped book ideas, I was amazed. Then I heard the phrase, “kill your darlings,” which is highly used by writers, and I got the message.

I have written and published four books. I have two sitting in a drawer gathering dust that will never see the light of day. What happened to them? They didn’t make it beyond my beta readers.

A Beta Reader should be an author’s first sounding board.

My wife is my first beta reader. If she likes it, I run the book down to the hill to one of my friends who is a quick and voracious reader. If it makes it past him, then it’s time to make numerous copies and have those read by several more readers.

I always wait for feedback to see what my readers think, then I go from there. Why would I do that you ask? Why not just go with my own intuition, my own gut feeling, and critics be damned, just publish it?

Well, that perhaps is why we are ending up with so many Indie titles that are not getting read and are having no sales. Someone has to read what you wrote to give feedback.

Writers need beta readers for feedback like Chef’s need tasters.

Have you seen the television shows where the budding Chef prepares a dish and one of the judges proclaims, “This is awful, did you taste this as you prepared it?”

That’s when the camera pans in on the poor Chef whose shoulders are now scrunched up to his or her ears, the sweat pouring off their brow and they mutter a “no, I didn’t taste it.”

The music sounds a death knell and we see the frown of the judges turn to shaking of heads with the commentator pronouncing the early exit of the Chef.

The difference between the writer who doesn’t get a readers feedback and a chef who doesn’t taste their own dishes and get other’s to taste them is the same. Readers give feedback, the same why a Chef’s taste buds tell him or her if the dish is palatable.

Feedback gives us clarity and direction.

If a plane leaves London, heading for Chicago and the plane is just one degree off course, the plane will  miss  Chicago by hundreds of kilometers.

Imagine that. One degree. Isn’t that the same when we read a book that doesn’t end well. Somehow the book went off course. The writer lost his or her way.

Those are the very books that need to be either dropped or revamped. Somehow, however, we writers feel we have so much invested in an idea, that we have to finish it. I’m all for finishing a book. Sometimes I just want to see where it leads.

But do I publish all of them? No, some of them I just write to see where the story goes. I’ve done the same with short stories. I write them, some of them I send off to magazines or newspapers and see if they get any attention.

Some of my short stories sit here, and then over time get sent out. I call that my aging process. Like fine wine. I had one that rested for fifteen years. Then one day I found a magazine for it and it got published.

What I’m saying is, some writing has to die for the eventual sake of our art. We need to try all the time, but not everything should get published. Especially in the realms of Indie writing, where, somehow authors think everything they write should see print.

I think if we all take a moment, let the writing rest, let a group of our best friends and critics see it, and then decide. And if we do kill our darlings’, we’ll do it softly and quietly then move on to the next project.

I wish all readers happy reading, and writers many hours of happy writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Killing our Darlings | Tagged , , , , , , ,

For 2016, how about forgetting goals, and resolve to push your boundaries.

I know every year, we all do the same thing. We make some goals. We are going to get richer, thinner, smarter or come up with a way to make our life better. All the books and all the pundits tell us that goal setting is the one thing that will help us.

Great. You set some goals, some pretty big ones, where you’re going to lose all that weight that has been magically appearing around your middle, you’ll take that course, and get around to decluttering your life – in essence, a magical new you.

The problem is, and we all see this. By this time next year, you’re writing  the same goals. Somehow, those pesky pounds fell off then jumped back on. You find you’re no wealthier, and the magical new you faded sometime in June.

So, what if you just resolved to make little changes. Things that would stick? The reason I’m putting this out there, in the past year I resolved to just make small changes. I wrote just a little more every day, and I submitted some of my work to a National Newspaper.

Strange thing was, I ended up finishing another novel, and getting an essay published in the Globe and Mail. I hardly felt like I did anything strenuous. I just added a bit more effort and pushed my own boundaries.

I heard this story of a man who was extremely overweight and unhappy with his life. One day he walked out his front door and walked around the block. It was a struggle. He continued the next day and the next until he was walking a mile every day. Then two miles. He lost all his weight and felt wonderful. But he’d done it in small steps. Not by trying to jog three miles a day.

For those who are  amazed at the world of writing. No writer completes a book in a day, a week or even in a month. They may do a short story in that time or they may pound out a first draft of a novel in a month, but then they go over it, painstakingly word by word and sentence by sentence until it’s finished.

They may have a goal of a short story or a novel, but to get there, they need to push their boundaries and personal limits each day.

I also participate in road bike racing. We have these 90 and 100-kilometer rides that we do with large groups. To get to a 100-kilometer bike ride you start with a 25, then you push it to 35 and then 50. All the time you’re pushing your limits of endurance on the bike.

There are some road bikers that call this pushing the pain. If you can’t take the pain that your body is going through after a solid three hours on the bike, you’ll never make the four hours it takes for the race.

This, indeed, is pushing boundaries. However, to get there, you make small steps and before long, there you are at the finish line.

So, if you’re like me, and you’re tired of writing those lofty goals and seeing them crumble and wonder what happened? Try small steps. See what your boundaries are, then push them out a bit. Walk a bit further if you want to get healthy, write a bit more and submit more if you want to be a writer.

We all know what our goals are. We just don’t know how far we can push our boundaries until we try. I wish all of you happy reading, writing, and a new boundary by the end of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in pushing boundaries, Uncategorized, Writers and goals, writers journey | Tagged , , , , ,

I have 57,204 readers on TripAdvisor, and only 5 of my new novel. Now What?

I opened  my email this morning and was delighted to see a report from TripAdvisor. “You have 57,204 readers of your reviews.” I’ve posted some 78 reviews, and received 56 helpful votes. How nice is that?

I then opened my Amazon account where my four books reside. My most recent one, MisDiagnosis Murder, was published several weeks ago, and I was hoping to see some results.

What did I see? 5 sales in four weeks! Then the red line that signifies sales dropped to zero. If you’ve ever watched the heart rate monitor on medical shows you’ll know my experience.

The red line on the bottom, it denotes no sales. No life, as in nada, zip, zero. Yes, in the words of Billy Crystal from the movie Princess Bride, “the patient is not all dead, just nearly dead.”

Is there a point where you should  give up as a Writer?

I think every writer asks this question. I did give up an earlier career in freelance writing for magazines and newspapers when I found the returns dismal for the effort I put in. You’d think I’d want to walk away now, when the returns are even worse.

But in every writer, there is the need to express on the page what is inside them. They never know what it is until it’s on the page. They discover the story, just as much as the reader does, and they become a part of it

The returns for writing can be poor. Back in my business career, I had this motto, “Return on Investment.” That was the king. If something did not return a profit in a certain period of time, I would drop it.

Why don’t I drop it now? After all, I’ve spent over 5,000 dollars in the past four years in publishing my books, with very little return. Shouldn’t I just give up?

Well no, I’m not done yet. There are more books inside me, and I’m sure there are inside of all the other independent writers.

Are the Naysayers right about Indie (Independent Writers), is this is fools game?

When I started writing and publishing four years ago, Indie Writing was just taking off. Many said it wouldn’t last, and some said it would be a way for editors and book designers to make money, while writers make very little.

Some of that is true. But I’m glad that book designers and editors are making a living. Why shouldn’t they? After all, if it were not for editors, some of the writing you’d see would be objectionable. And, for the book designers, I think they are worth ever penny.

Is there a way for Indie Writers to actually make a living, or at least make back their costs?

At this point in time, there are numerous people out there banging a drum to tell Indie writers that all is not lost. They will find us those ever elusive readers.

You have to understand that the writing world has taken on Tsunami like proportions with the implementation of e-books, and print on demand. Amazon’s Kindle was probably the largest game changer since the Gutenberg printing press was invented in 1440.

The stats are that some 600,000 ebooks and print on demand books are hitting cyber space every year. This is wonderful time to be a reader. For the writers who are trying to make a living. Perhaps not so much.

There is a tendency to be washed out to sea by this Tsunami. I mean, really? How many more romantic zombie books can be written? Or how many more shades of grey are there before everything turns to black?

Is there help out there for Indie Writers, or just people who are trying to make money off of us?

Back in the days of the gold rush, they claim the only ones who made any money were the people who supplied gear to the miners. Want an example? How about Levi Strauss. You may be wearing his jeans right now.

In my short four years of writing, I have found some very honest writers who want to help other writers. K.M. Weiland and James Scott Bell come to mind as two successful writers who are sincere in their efforts to help writers. It shows in the excellent books they’ve produced on the writing craft.

For books on marketing, I’m a big fan of Joanne Penn. However, when I listened to her last webcast, she claimed the key to success was writing 20 books.

Here is my slight problem with that math,I’m just turning 63. I produce a book at a snails pace of one per year. I need 16 more years on the planet to get that number. I’ve decided I’ll take up the challenge, eat more oatmeal and reduce the amount of olives in my martinis. Here’s hoping for book number 20 on my 79th birthday!

Taking the title of Highly Unsuccessful Writer, and owning it!

In all this, I’ve decided I will take on the title of highly unsuccessful writer. Many people ask me what I do. I  say, “I’m a writer, but a highly unsuccessful one.” It’s kind of a joke, but it’s okay.

Owning that title, makes me want to move forward, to write more, to get better, to see if over time…maybe I’ll sell 10 books next month! Okay, that’s a lie, I do want to sell more books and achieve a wider audience. All writers want that. It’s how we justify what we do.

For those of you who want to see how a truly unsuccessful writer does, you can see all my books on my webpage at http://www.lylenicholson.com.

for those of you who want to know where to find the best Mai Tai on Oahu, you can check me out on TripAdvisor. Apparently I have quite a following.

For any writers out there who would like to comment, or admit they too are highly unsuccessfully, and owning the title, please leave a comment.

 

 

 

Posted in writers journey | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Catching Jesus for Johnny Cash. My true story.

This story took place forty-four years ago. You could ask, as I’m a writer, why it took so long to write about this. I have to say, I don’t know, but here it is.

How I ended up in Israel in Johnny Cash’s movie ,Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus (1973), is a longer story than this blog will allow. Let’s just say a series of events led me, an 18 year old kid with all of 50 dollars in his pocket to Jerusalem in November of 1971.

I was desperately in need of work. I remember walking into the hovel that was my Arab hotel and finding this guy giving a pitch how Johnny Cash was looking for actors. Extra’s he called them, for crowd scenes and background, and some to be Apostles and Romans.

The promise of food and money propelled all of us, hippie backpacking travelers, to the King David Hotel where we sat in groups while Johnny Cash and the director, Bob Elsfstrom looked us over.

If you ever want to know what a piece of meat feels like as it’s being considered by the  buyer, go to a casting call for extras. Not that Johnny and Bob were disrespectful. It was in the manner that they discussed our looks and if we’d fit the part.

I was mulled over several times by them. Bob thought I was perfect for Andrew the Apostle. Johnny didn’t see it. He thought a French kid was better. He thought I was suited for John. Then after he mused a bit, he didn’t think I was right for anything.

After what seemed an eternity, they chose me to be an Apostle, but they weren’t sure whether I’d be Andrew or John. I felt like all my years in junior league baseball, when I was the last pick, and then the captain tried to figure out where I could do the least damage to the team.

It turned out I was to be Andrew the Apostle after all. I was given some nice robes by the costume department on the set a few days later and informed, that none of us would have speaking parts. We would walk behind Jesus for the 12 days of shooting. Jesus we’d learn, was Bob. The director Bob. Bob was tall, blonde, blue-eyed and extremely white.

I have no idea why Johnny Cash chose Bob Elfstrom to play Jesus. It could be because Bob directed a documentary on Johnny a few years back, or the film had a small budget. We did have one Actor. Paul Smith. He played Peter. He’d go on to be Captain Bluto in Popeye with Robin Williams, and in the 1994 remake of Maverick, a western.

Other than Paul Smith, there was this rag-tag group of hippies that were recruited from the streets of Jerusalem. We were from America, England, France, Holland, Ireland, Israel, and me, the Canadian. I was the youngest of them all.

We climbed into the back of a truck every morning at 6am in front of the King David Hotel, and drove in a caravan of vans and cars towards Jericho for shooting. Jericho was empty. The six-day war of 1967 had cleared it out. Arabs had fled from the advancing Israelis army.

All that was left were empty streets, a few mangy dogs, and a great backdrop for a movie about Jesus. A western was being shot there in the spring.

I had no idea until we got on the set, that nothing in a movie is shot in sequence. The first day of shooting was to be where Jesus turned water into wine in front of the guests at a wedding. We were to sit on mats tapping our hands and feet to music while drinking wine and eating.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this. I thought, I’m getting paid, no it wasn’t much back then – it was 12 US dollars a day, but we were getting fed, and to just sit and listen to music with a camera filming us. How bad could that be?

We did it for hours. A camera man is never happy, because the light is never right, and somehow, even the bright sun in the noon day sky doesn’t appease a camera man. And of course, then the director will never be happy, and so it goes.

That one scene took all day, and unbeknownst to me, the wine was not fake wine. The prop guy was supposed to get a red color to blend with water to make pretend wine – he couldn’t find it. He’d bought real wine.

No one told me, the dumb eighteen year old from Canada, and when half way through shooting someone said, “hey, I think Andrew’s drunk.” I remembered looking around with a dreamy look on my face wondering, “who’s  Andrew?”

I  realized  Andrew was me, and managed to pretend drinking the wine for the rest of the shoot. Johnny only smiled and chuckled at the sight of his drunk Apostle.

The next few days we walked behind our Jesus. He was a kind Jesus, our Bob. He was more interested in how the shots worked, where the light was coming from and camera angles. Johnny was there giving us guidance over every scene.

If you can imagine that tall man, dressed in black, standing there before us. That is how I remember him. He’d rise up even taller with that big black bible in his hands and give us a lesson about the scene we were about to recreate.

The idea for this movie had come to Johnny in a dream. He claimed that God had spoken to him, and told him to make a movie about the life of Jesus. He’d told his wife, June Carter, about the dream. She told him to go ahead and make the movie. Here we were, living this dream with him.

On day three of shooting, we were told we were going up in the hills above Jericho to do the Crucifixion scene. I don’t know why, but I was taken aback. I thought this scene would be at the end of our second week of shooting. It was happening sooner than I expected.

The convoy wended its way up a dusty, rocky slope and came to a stop on a large hill above Jericho. We scrambled out and helped to unload two pieces of  brown plastic that were then bolted together to form the cross.

The prop man dug a hole as good as he could in the hard rocky soil and after several attempts judged the apparatus solid enough to hold Bob, our Jesus.

Bob walked from behind a truck. He was dressed in a white loin cloth, his arms and legs covered in a makeup of blood and dirt. On his head were the crown of thorns. The entire set went quiet.

Bob laid down on the cross, and the prop man wound some plastic cords around his wrists then pasted some spikes to his hands. The make up person slathered his hands in red gore.

We all helped to raise Bob up on the cross, and several people worked with shovels to secure the cross in the ground. When the prop man was happy it was secure, he gave the thumbs up sign and we sprinted back to our positions.

I was off camera for the scene. A few Apostles with some Roman Soldiers clad in their plastic armor and June Carter in robes of Mary Magdalene were in the foreground.

The camera man shouted, “rolling,” and Johnny Cash began to give his sermon about the agony of Jesus on the cross to set the scene.

We all stood motionless as this incredible scene unfolded before us. Then we saw the cross move. It jerked slightly. Then it began to lurch violently forward.

Bob was heading for the ground. Face first.

“Catch Jesus,” Johnny yelled.

Almost as one, the Apostles, the Romans, and anyone not holding a camera ran forward and grabbed Bob on the cross before his body met with the rocky earth.

We flipped him over, and laid him gently on the ground. Johnny and Bob conferred with the props man, the hole was dug deeper, and we hoisted Bob up again.

This time, Johnny was barely getting into his sermon, when the cross lurched violently and began plunging to the ground with Bob.

“Catch Jesus!” Johnny commanded.

“Oh, yes, catch Jesus!” June Carter repeated.

This time our catch team was faster. We made it the thirty to forty feet over that rocky ground in our flimsy Apostle sandals in record time. We cradled Bob, and turned him over to lay him on the ground again.

Serious discussions now took place with Bob and Johnny. They were losing their precious  daylight. The clouds and the sun were doing these speculator things over head. Bob had to on be on the cross to take advantage of this.

They needed to try it again. The had to get the shot. They raised Bob up on the cross again and the prop guy got busy with the shovel.

This time I asked if I could help. I explained to the prop guy that I’d just spent three months doing nothing but shoveling gravel on the railway in Canada’s far North. I could see his shovel technique was wrong.

I’d learned to make railway ties as firm as concrete by shoveling from the outside in. I took his shovel, and in my thin Apostle sandals I made a base for the cross that held. To this day, I think all I added to Johnny Cash’s movie was my shovel technique. My acting was lousy.

The cross held. We were getting the shot. The skies were doing all manner of wonderful things in the background and our cameraman and Johnny was ecstatic. Then we heard the jeeps.

A steady drone could be heard that got louder and louder until we all turned to see two Israeli Army Jeeps with large machine guns racing up the hill.

They braked a few feet from us. The dust blew over us like a cold chill. All I could think of was, “what now?”

Johnny Cash walked over and talked to the soldiers with his interpreter. The soldiers had been sent to investigate a report by tourists that someone was being crucified on a hill. They’d come to check out if we were terrorists. After Johnny’s explanation, they smiled and waved at us, then turned their jeeps around and headed back down the hill

The light cooperated for another half hour while we watched Bob, as Jesus, die on the plastic cross above Jericho. Johnny Cash’s thick southern voice blanketed the set as he spoke the words from the bible, and his heart about the death of his beloved saviour.

We shot more of that movie over the next week, and I watched Johnny Cash as he conferred with Bob over every scene, as he directed us and guided us.

His movie would be released a few years later. The critics didn’t like the movie, and were especially critical of Bob as Jesus. Some said he was the worst person to every portray Jesus. The film they claim, went from movie theater’s to church basements in a matter of weeks.

But what can you say of the passion of Johnny Cash. He wanted to make a movie about Jesus, and he did. His movie, Gospel Road, is in revival. I picked up my own copy on Amazon several years ago. Yes, it’s bad acting. I should know, I was one of the actors.

There’s great cinematography, and a wonderful country music soundtrack, and the melodious narration of Johnny Cash. His passion comes through in the narration, no matter what you think of the motley crew that were his cast.

After all, not once when we were on that hill, and the cross was falling…not once did Johnny tell us to “catch Bob.” Such was the passion and the immersion in the film by Johnny Cash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How a story of MisDiagnosis of Cancer became the idea for my new Novel.

I heard this story of a cancer misdiagnosis many years ago. A man, who lived in England was told he had inoperable cancer and given a short time to live. He sold everything he had, then wound up his affairs. He didn’t want his passing to be a burden on anyone.

Then he got a call. He was told, “sorry about this, but your records were mixed with someone else’s. You’re going to live.”

Now, the man was happy that he was going to live but distraught that he’d lost all his possessions. If he lived in America of course, there would be lawyers lined up at his door to help him sue the hospital.

The reason I chose this idea for my book is that we are so ready to accept what doctors tell us. The moment we are in their office we are putty in their hands.

I have a doctor friend in the town where I live, who does a few days a week at a walk in clinic. He tells me how people are just so glad to see him.  He stands there in his white coat, with their file in his hands. He told me he sometimes says, “very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like this!” Just to see their expression. Then he tells them he’s joking. He tells me it breaks the ice. I’m sure it does.

The strange thing is, medicine is a science. And they call it the practice of medicine. So why are we so ready to believe what doctors tell us? Scientist who deal with the physical earth tell us that if we don’t do anything to stop global warming that all those on the coast will be wearing hip waders in the near future.

It seems that a large percentage of the world’s population refuse to believe those scientist. But what if a doctor (who practices the science of medicine) told those same people they were about to die. What would those same people do? Get another opinion, or tell their loved ones they should’nt buy any green bananas, (sorry bad joke) but you get my meaning.

Do I have a problem with doctors? Absolutely not. I think it’s the way we think of them. That is what makes for a great story idea. That they are somehow infallible in our minds.

If my character, Carson Winfield, had got another opinion in my book, I wouldn’t have a story. So, I wish all of you good health, good reading, and yes, keep buying green bananas.

If you would like to read the first three chapters of my book, Misdiagnosis Murder, you can do so for free on my website at www.lylenicholson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stories from the Poverty (economics) of Passion for the Arts.

I was at this dinner party several weeks ago when this lady told me that she was once a dancer. Her life was filled with a passion for dancing, it was all she wanted to do.

“What happened?” I asked. I knew some of her history, and that she had retired from years in a high level marketing position.

“My mother wouldn’t allow it.” She said. And then with a wistful look, she told me how many of her friends went to Las Vegas and Radio City Music Hall in New York to become dancers. What I didn’t mention, and wanted to say, was that her friends, the ones who made it to the chorus lines and the bright lights wouldn’t have made the money she did.

The real truth is that the arts do not pay much. As in very little. The surest road to poverty is through the passion for the arts.

Every truthful writer, musician, artist, and sculptor will tell you that the passion for the arts, although it has it’s own true rewards, pays “squat,” as in very little.

Yes, there are stories of the artists who do well, but for every one of them, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, whose paintings adorn the walls of relatives, whose sculptures sit in rock gardens, and whose prose line the bottom of desk drawers.

Ernest Hemingway was rumored to have captured pigeons in a park in Paris for his lunch and dinner. He used his morning baguette as bait. I’d sat in that very park in Paris, and wondered if the Pigeons were the true inspiration for his book, “the moveable feast.”

Long before Stephen King became the celebrity of the ghoulish and macabre, he was a very broke school teacher. His mother had implored him to become a teacher, as she knew most writers made little money.

Stephen wrote sci-fi articles for men’s magazines, and worked as a janitor in the summer to make ends meet. His first book Carrie, came about while he was mopping floors in the women’s washroom. His vision for the book propelled him out of his poverty into stardom. But if it hadn’t? I think Stephen King would have been happy to have kept teaching English, and writing. Such is his passion.

I have high school friends, so passionate for their love of the arts, that they never took jobs more demanding than parking attendants or truck drivers. Their off hours were painting or playing music.

Years ago, on a flight to my home town on a business trip, I met one of my old high school friends. He was checking in cars at Hertz. He was still painting, playing a guitar and living his life like he’d always had. His own pace, his own rhythm. And my god, he looked so less stressed than I was.

There is this saying I’ve heard, that when someone enters the world of the arts, in either college or university, that program should have a course in being a “Barista,” as they will probably end up working for Starbucks or some other coffee house upon graduation to make ends meet.

There is a story from Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, how he lived in a trailer, and pounded on an old typewriter for years before he had any kind of a breakthrough in his writing. He followed harvests and picked fruit to survive, while he wrote another novel that didn’t sell.

Yes, he made it though his poverty. But how many are really willing to do so? It seems that I’m not one of them.

My own story, is that I began writing over 30 years ago. I was accepted into journalism school, but balked when I found how little money I’d make. Yes, money over passion for writing. How many other’s have gone down that road? I would only take up writing on retirement, when book sales didn’t mean livelihood. That was the safe route for me.

I met a young man at a writer’s seminar. He was a journalist. He’d graduated from the same school I’d contemplated studying at many years ago. Yes, he admitted he made almost next to nothing working for a small town newspaper, but at that seminar his children’s book was nominated for a prestigious award. I don’t know if he won that evening. But, my goodness, I’ve never had one of my books nominated for anything. My kudos to that brave young man.

At the end of this, yes, there is little money in the passion for the arts, but what of it? If not for those who make little return but the satisfaction of what they create, where would this civilization be?

If you wander into a museum in Amsterdam, Paris or London, you’ll view the paintings of El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Vincent Van Gough. What do they have in common? Most of them died impoverished. Their work was never appreciated in their lifetime.

To those, musicians, painters and writers out there, just keep at it. The desire you have, for the gift of passion for the arts you have…no one can take that away.

As for the lady at the party who said to me, “I could have been a dancer. I could have been in Las Vegas.” That said it all to me. The look in her eyes, as to what she missed.

I hope all of you who have a passion for the arts, that you won’t let the lack of financial renumeration get in the way. To create something in art is wonderful. Whether it be a chord of music, a brush stroke or a line of poetry, or some dialogue that stands out and rings out to the world, who knows, Shakespeare made very little from his works in his lifetime. But he left the world a legacy.

Maybe you will do the same, or maybe you’ll just enjoy the things that money just can’t buy. The passion of creation. Enjoy!

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