RSS

Tag Archives: muse

How Novel

I’ve written millions of words over the years. Millions. I’ve penned over 20 screenplays and teleplays. I’ve written some short stories that I’ll never admit to. So I wonder what it is about a novel that is so darn intimidating.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few years exploring the various aspects of the arts. I’ve created a web series and directed the first few episodes. I’ve got other film projects I’d like to work on in some capacity. But the more it I branch out, the more I appreciate the simplicity of a keyboard, a computer screen, and my own thoughts. I enjoy making films, but I’m a writer at heart.

The past year hasn’t been great for that. I’ve written, and what I’ve written is pretty good, I think. But I miss when it was just me and the keyboard, letting the story flow organically, not worrying about whether or not we can afford to shoot this scene or at that location.

I like screenplays. They’re structured. Organized. The story beats and flow makes sense to me. It’s all instinct to me, now. I don’t even have to try to hit certain goals when I write a screenplay. I just know when what needs to happen, and I can make it seem very organic.

A screenplay is meant to be a skeleton, conveying just what is necessary to generate interest and provide a map for the director and actors. It can be written eloquently, but it’s not a requirement. I’ve written these things for years, as noted above. I’ve got it down to a science.

Novels? They’re not organized at all. There’s no formal structure. No flow. No story beats beyond whatever the author decides to throw at you. That makes me a little more uncomfortable. They’re such sprawling, random things. How do you get a handle on it? How do you make sense of a massive story that takes so long to tell and has such a distinct and different flow than a screenplay?

Well, simpler isn’t always better. And lately, my muse has decided to kick me in my complacency and set me back upon the elusive path of writing a novel.

I asked one of my instructors years ago if it were possible to be a novelist and a screenwriter. He told me not everyone was able to make the shift. He himself had done so, because years of reading drivel in the form of B-movie, direct-to-DVD screenplays made him feel kind of “dirty” in a literary sense. He commended my “voice” – my ability to hook a reader with a comfortable narrative voice that reads well, and encouraged me to continue in my efforts.

And so, on I go. I’ve penned around 2500 words in the past few days. I’m excited to be delving back into this world (both the world of the story and the world of writing a novel). Shepard and my other projects will be going forward as planned, of course. This book is kind of a palette cleanser for me, a way to reconnect to my inner writer and to tell a story much grander than any I’ve written in screenplay format. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.

Anyone else out there try to balance both screenplays and novels? What’s your preference? Why?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Shaking Off the Negative

“The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous.”

– David Icke

I chose the above quote for my first blog of the year (indeed, the first blog on this site in two years) because it perfectly expresses two particular sentiments: first, the most obvious meaning of the quote, to embrace joy and let go of negativity. The second is more in my choice of author. David Icke is partly known for espousing government conspiracy theories, the majority of which I don’t personally agree with. Yet here we are, finding common ground when it matters.

I spent most of 2013 in something of a hazy, angry rage. The rage was often silent, but ubiquitous. I was frustrated about a great many things, and for much of the year, I believed those things to be external. Every time I turned around, there was a new report or article talking about how religious liberty was being threatened, how Obamacare was ruining the health care of hard working Americans, how the liberal culture was slowly seeping into how the nation is governed such that it is practically unrecognizeable anymore.

These things upset me because I care about our country. I care about the freedoms we enjoy. I am vehemently oppossed to a nanny state, to spreading the wealth, to limiting individual rights. The notion of big government makes me absolutely nauseous. Our nation is being run by a man who has never had a day of real work in his life, who was educated by the hippies and idealists of the previous generation, people who embrace ideas and philosophies that sound great on paper, but that fail miserably when implemented in reality. The incessant “I had no idea” rhetoric, the disdain with which he and his administration treats the founding principles of this nation (ideals that enabled him to get elected in the first place)…I’ve had my fill and then some.

The problem is not that these things upset me. The problem is what I do with my anger and frustration over them. For the past year, I’ve just raged on endlessly about it, complained about, pointed out the million reasons why it’s all going to fail. I stand by all of those arguments. They’re valid. I see it. A lot of other people see it. But – I let that anger just fester and change me, until I couldn’t see any good in anything. And that is where I went wrong.

Now, I admit, another source behind the “rage” was a personal issue or two that I’ve been dealing with. Questioning my faith, that sort of thing. I think most people face that kind of existential crisis. When it’s over, you’re either more certain than ever, or you have an epiphany that changes your worldview completely. In my case, it was the former. I’ve changed the way I think about some things. Or more accurately, my understanding of things has evolved, and said thought process changes came about organically because of that evolution.

We’ve got a lot of crazy things coming up in 2014. Creative projects will at long last reach fruition. Others will begin, and even on the homefront, things are set to change and evolve. It’s an exciting time. Thankfully, the holidays somehow managed to lift my spirit, to make me remember that life isn’t just all about the negative, even when it seems like that is all that surrounds us. I see signs of my fellow countrymen waking up, in light of a number of victories for Christian employers who don’t have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans, and in the reinstatement of the Robertson patriarch in Duck Dynasty (and prior to that, Cracker Barrel’s putting the Duck Dynasty products back on the shelves). I’m pleased to see more conservative Americans making some noise.

As I always do, I hope to post more frequently here and establish a more consistent routine for my writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m sitting on some cool ideas for screenplays and stories that I wouldn’t mind getting out there and selling. And of course, projects dear to me, such as Shepard, will be coming to fruition this year. Very excited about getting that out there!

But be warned: no topic is too big or small, to politically correct or risque. Read future entries at your own risk. And if I happen to offend you: stop what you’re doing, head down to Target, and buy a sense of humor.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lead Role Cast

“Bella Morte” Lead Role

“Bella Morte” (Beautiful Death) is my next project, once Season 1 of “Shepard” wraps in October.  It explores the life of a beautiful femme fatale, Jaiyana, as she is forcibly drawn out of retirement and hired to take on one final hit.  Even though I’m still refining the script for this short, I’ve had the rare pleasure of already casting the lead role.

Those of you who have directed anything, stage or screen, know that casting a project can be both incredibly exciting and very challenging.  Sure there are casting directors and talent agencies to help narrow down the choices for you, but ultimately it comes down to matching that vision of a character in your head, with actual, physical people in the room next to you, patiently awaiting their turn to audition.  This also means keeping an open mind about it.  You may have to compromise on that vision to a degree.  But sometimes that’s when the greatest magic happens.

While casting “Shepard” I was met with tremendous good fortune.  I was fortunate enough to be able to offer two roles the very same night as the auditions.  The actors were just that good, and that perfect for the roles for which they auditioned.  I very nearly was able to offer a third that night as well, the role of Jamie.  We had two strong contenders for the part, so I decided to do callbacks for them both and see how it would go.  Once we got rolling, the choice was obvious.  And honestly, it had been my gut instinct from the start.

Megan von Wertman is a versatile actress.  She auditioned for two roles originally: Jamie, and Shayla.  These two characters are so diametrically opposed to each other, I was actually surprised to see she wanted to take them both on.  Far more common was to audition for Allyson and Jamie – characters that were more similar to each other.  Megan could have easily handled either role, but I was very compelled by what she brought to Jamie.

Most times, the “quiet” girl comes off as being fairly bland.  But Jamie, in Megan’s hands, leapt right off the page, right off the screen.  Finding a pretty girl to fill a role like that is easy.  But finding one who can infuse a character with so much personality – especially given the brevity of the character’s sides – is much more challenging.

It was also about that time I noticed that Megan’s versatility could make her the perfect candidate for Jaiyana, the assassin brought out of retirement in “Bella Morte.” Jaiyana is a challenging role, to say the least.  There’s a lot more to her than just being a patient, precise killer.  So much more, in fact, that to divulge even the slightest detail would utterly spoil the film.  She has a lot of pain and grief to carry with her, and a profound sorrow that most people cannot begin to imagine.  If there is a place more tormentuous than hell, that is where Jaiyana resides.  But there’s also a humanity to her, a spark that makes her relatable, sympathetic to the viewer.  To have already met the person capable of tackling that broad range at this early stage is definitely a pleasant surprise.

It’s a rare treat at this level to have such consistent good fortune in casting.  I couldn’t be more pleased with my cast for Shepard – every one of them is exactly right for their roles.  And now, Bella Morte is starting things off in the same way.  Although we’re months from rolling cameras on this exciting short film, I greatly anticipate seeing Megan’s Jaiyana in action.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reconciling Christmas: Part the First

Ah, Generation X.  The children of the baby boomers.  We lived through Reagan and Bush, survived Black Monday, and saw the nascence of the home computer and video game industries.  War was something we read about

Baby Boom

Baby Boom! No... not that one.

in history books, or that our grandparents (the so-called “Silent Generation” who survived the Depression) would talk about.  We witnessed the tragedy of the Challenger, the inexplicable rise of hair rock bands, and the birth of MTV (back when the M stood for Music, instead of Mindless).

Our childhoods were unique because we grew up in a time of relative peace that enabled the innovations we witnessed throughout our younger years.  Heck, I still remember our first VCR, and how amazing the concept of “renting” movies when I first heard about it.

On the downside, our parents also had a pretty high divorce rate.  A lot of GenXers come from broken homes, absent one parent or another due to divorce (or lack of marriage in the first place).  This seems to have led to a shift in cultural paradigms, because our generation began a trend that GenY continued (and often gets credited for): not getting married young.  There was a sharp rise in premarital sex when GenX hit our teen years, ostensibly because we saw what trouble marriage was when people jumped into it too quickly and didn’t want to repeat that.  This, of course, led to an upswing in teen pregnancies and STD’s.

Obviously, the point of this blog is to talk about Christmas, not delve into a sociological discussion about Generation X.  I’m trying to lay the foundation to explore why Christmas seems to have become so watered down and overhyped.  As GenXers continued to age and GenYers gained more prominence and representation, the more liberal ideas of the latter began to take center stage.  Probably due in part to the uncertainty and transitional state of their GenX forebears, GenY has forsaken many traditional and conservative values, but for the most part have not replaced those values with anything of substance.

Since the typical premium marketing demographic is in the (very vague and unofficial) range of 18-30,  most marketing and business have adapted to GenY’s more liberal leanings.  Suddenly we see fewer nativity scenes, a rise in prominence for other religious holidays in December, and the secularization of what is, by virtue of its very name, a religious holiday: “Cristes maesse” derived from the Greek “Christos” and the Latin “missa” – in other words, Christ’s Mass (interesting side-note: the abbreviation for “Christos” is – guess what? – the letter X; so simply writing X-mas is not, technically, taking the Christ out of Christmas).

I believe this is primarily why the holiday seems to hold less meaning for us today.  It’s all pomp and no circumstance, lots of glitter and red and green but bereft of its original substance and meaning.  (And when I say “original” in this context, I mean Christmas itself; not its predecessor, the pagan festival Saturnalia, or the German counterpart, Yule).

But Santa, what if I can't pay my mortgage?

So the struggle we face, especially since many of us are now raising our own kids, is what to do about Christmas.  It’s just not the same anymore.  Sure, in part it’s that we grew up.  Significant moments of childhood are often inconsequential as in adulthood.  But part of it is that Christmas has changed.  We look around now and see ridiculous sales and an increased focus on spending money and buying gifts, and we think… wow, that’s not what I remember at all.  Your memory isn’t faulty, folks.  That’s not how it was.

What was once a grand time of year is now frustrating.  It brings out the absolute worst in people.  Don’t believe me?  What about the Wal-Mart associate that was trampled to death under the heels of rampant Black Friday shoppers in 2009?  How many of you have been fortunate to actually have someone back off and give you a parking space, instead of racing you to it?  Shoppers prowl malls and stores on the lookout for the best deals, and they’ll knock you over and step on you to get there without a second thought.  The very concept of being a friendly, courteous, good neighbor is completely lost on them.

And the impatience and stupidity of people!  Everyone is in a hurry to get absolutely nowhere.  I’ve been tailgated on slick roads with my kids in the car by people who clearly have no concept of what ice does to traction.

And let’s not forget our own negative experiences with Christmas itself.  Do any one of you have a parent who had a clue how to tie the Santa story all together?  Or could provide a meaningful answer as to who the jolly one was in relation to this Jesus kid who was supposedly born on this day?  Probably not.  And as GenXers, we questioned our parents about everything.  Thanks to the relative peace and prosperity of our youth, we developed a culture of entitlement and expectation that the older GenY members have broken down into a science by now.  We knew better, right?  We could do better.

I’m going to examine three big elements of the holiday season over the next three days (well, nights), and offer some thoughts about how we can reclaim this holiday from its current, meaningless iteration.  Let’s reconcile then and now, and make the future, for our kids, a brighter one than we have ever known.  I’ll be starting with the path of least resistance, the simplest piece of this puzzle, the jolly red one himself, Santa Claus.  Or at least, that intangible ideal that is Santa, as one of the two big symbols of Christmas.


Reconciling the Symbols: Providing Context

Our generation is one of the first to really experience a massive influx of Santa culture, thanks to the advent of cable television in our youths, and the ever-evolving mass marketing methods.  We saw him everywhere – on billboards, on television (in commercials and in his own Christmas specials).  Who could forget the loose continuity of the Rankin Bass Christmas specials, like Rudolph and The Year Without a Santa Claus?  The big guy was everywhere, even more than in previous generations.

Sadly, this media explosion led to a ton of inconsistencies in his “origin story” if you will.  For one thing, most of us got name brand toys and electronics for Christmas, so the whole “elves making toys in a workshop in the north pole” thing kind of goes out the window.  Unless, of course, Sony had subcontracted some elves to produce a Santa-exclusive series of Walkman radios.

For another thing, our awareness of the world at large had evolved.  It was a big place!  How is it possible that Santa delivered toys to the entire planet?  And why did he always use the GMT -500 time zone that the eastern US utilizes?  When it’s midnight here, it’s already daylight in Japan.

And where did he come from?  Rankin Bass had their own theories, of course.  So did Clement Clark Moore in his classic poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas (better known to us as The Night Before Christmas).  Of course, Mr. Moore was likely onto something with that title.  A bit of rudimentary history reading will show you that there really was a St. Nicholas, who was born in Turkey sometime around 270 A.D.

Historically, Nicholas was a prominent and highly generous figure in the church (yes, even the “Santa” element of Christmas has religious roots).  His wealthy parents died at a young age, and Nicholas spent his inheritance to see the world.  He entered service to the church because he wanted to help others, and eventually became known as the patron saint of children, sailors, even thieves.

Yes, Virginia, there WAS a Santa Claus.

Of course, the man was only mortal and he eventually died.  Many stories arose about Saint Nicholas after his death.  It’s impossible to tell which are true and which are not, but the man’s selfless, generous life in service to others obviously provided the basis for the figure we know as Santa Claus.

In our house, Nicholas’ involvement in the church is at the forefront of what we teach our kids.  It’s real history – and it helps connect them to the very real history of Christ’s birth.  We’ve always tried to keep the stories of Santa sufficiently vague, explaining to the kids “they say” as opposed to stating it as a cold, hard fact.  We have a book we read near the start of each Christmas season, called, “A Place for Santa.”  It’s a cute little book that touches on “Santa’s” life as St. Nicholas.  I’ve seen other efforts made by the faithful to bridge the gap too, including a new VeggieTales video about him.

So why bother with Santa in the first place?  Speaking as a realist: try to avoid him.  It’s practically impossible.  He’s too much a part of our culture, and he’s not going away.  The kids are going to hear about him, from television, from their friends at school… heck my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher had her class write letters to Santa and he “wrote” them back.  No parents were consulted or warned prior to this so they could opt out or express concerns.

There’s no avoiding Santa, so the best thing you can do is educate yourself about him, and be prepared to answer any questions honestly.  Or tell them from the start who he really was.

You should also be prepared to deal with unintentional connections between Santa and Jesus – if “Santa” isn’t real, young (or naïve) minds may apply similar logic to Christ as well.  Every parent should be well-versed in apologetics if they intend to share their faith with their kids.  Understand the various evidence out there in support of Christ.  Understand any so-called counter-evidence; it’s kind of an implied mandate (see 1 Peter 3:15 – good advice, there).

Yes, I just referenced a Scripture verse – which is a great segue into part two of this blog: Reconciling the Religious and the Secular: To Believe or Not To Believe.  Stay tuned!  And remember, no matter how you handle this element of Christmas, remember that  whatever you tell them, is theirs for life, and it may color their own feelings about Christmas for years to come.  Don’t underestimate your influence.

Note: If you do wish to let your kids share in the Santa legends, there’s a nice little book we’ve read to our kids called, “A Special Place for Santa” – it’s available here.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 22, 2010 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lord, Save Me From Your Followers

My faith has always been an ill-tended garden.  It’s an unfortunate truth, one that I’ve kept fairly well hidden.  With the onset of my anxiety issues, however, I’ve been forced to really look inward and examine my beliefs.  For if I really had faith in what I claim to believe, I really shouldn’t be having anxiety problems.  That was my initial thought, though it proved to be untrue.

God has always been in the background of my life.  Ever since those early days when my mom and dad took me to church.  I never wanted to go to.  I locked myself in the bathroom because I didn’t want to attend Sunday school.  When I got older, I went to a youth group called the Boy’s Brigade (sort of like Boy Scouts).  I even went to a Christian school.

I didn’t realize at the time but my education through these places was never actually very thorough.  I learned all the cliche’s and buzz words (“born again”, “get saved”, “sinner’s prayer”, “altar call” and so on).  I learned all about the evils of the occult, rock music, and Hallowe’en.  I learned about how I was a sinner and would go to hell unless I accepted Christ.  I had Bible classes as part of the curriculum.  We prayed before classes.  We had chapel services on Wednesdays.

I prayed the magic sinner’s prayer in sixth grade.  And probably about ten times a year after that.  But I didn’t know what I was doing.  I did it because people said I should, or else I’d go to hell.  I was never offered a proper explanation.  It was never explained just what this prayer was supposed to do or mean, other than “Now Jesus lives in your heart.”

Really?  That’s it?

It boiled down to a number’s game.  There was a singular focus: get people saved.  It didn’t matter if they really understood their decision.  All of that would come in time.  They just need to pray this prayer and get saved.  That was the focus, so little effort was spent in quantifying the decision or properly educating someone who prayed the magic prayer regarding what they were supposed to do.  No one is ever told how hard it’s going to be.  It’s pitched like a magic fix for the worst of problems.

The issue here is that we end up with a bunch of spiritually immature believers with little to no guidance or understanding, who are left to go out and continue the sales/recruiting process.  These people go out into all the world to follow what they were told was the focus of Christ’s message.  But they fail.  Because they cannot withstand the criticisms and challenges of skeptics.  Their beliefs can never truly take root, so they have no real defense.  They are left with a tenuous framework of belief tenets, a list of stuff they should avoid and a list of cliche’s with which to do the recruiting.  That’s it.

I don’t mean any of that literally, of course.  And I’m sure many of these people who are out there trying to “save” others are good people who are trying to do the right thing.  The problem is they aren’t really looking at the big picture.  They don’t know Christ; instead, they know what his message is according to what they were told.  They don’t question.  They don’t wonder.  They accept it all on blind faith – irresponsible blind faith.

Growing up in the midst of all this, it’s no wonder at all that eventually I fell away from it.  Looking at this approach as an adult, with a certain degree of wisdom and experience, I can easily trace my path from that kid in the private school to the adult plagued with doubts and questions.  I’ve always had discontent in my spirit about many of these things.  None of it has ever seemed right.  I’ve recently realized my real issue with Christianity wasn’t necessarily believing in God or in Christ… it was the people who claimed they do.

Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  They are so unlike your Christ.”  I cannot find better words to describe the current state of Christianity in this country, and in the world at large.  So many people who claim to be Christians are the exact opposite.  Not only do they often fail to communicate the message of Christ, half the time they’re communicating the wrong message altogether.  Almost every public face of this faith has been brought down in the last few decades, or they’ve had a PR faux pas that has ruined their ministry.  They act so holy, pretend to be perfect in the public eye… but eventually their sin catches up.  And since they don’t preach a message that says “Hey, we are Christian but we still screw up, we don’t have all the answers” they are judged fiercely by the public, thus reflecting poorly on the whole.  (I won’t even get into the war-mongering Christians who want to obliterate others; needless to say, wars have been fought in the name of Christ.)

If I were an outsider looking for something higher to believe in, I’d have a hard time accepting Christianity.  Its people behave in a way that is in direct contrast to the message of the faith.  I certainly don’t expect perfection – but a lot of people who claim to be Christians aren’t even in the right ballpark.

Yet as much as I cannot abide organized Christianity, I also cannot dismiss the faith it is supposed to represent.  It is unique from other faiths in that it is not based upon teachings, but a person.  You can take Buddha out of Buddhism and still have his teachings.  You can remove the person of Muhammad and still have the teachings of Islam.  But if you attempt to remove the person of Christ from Christianity, you completely lose Christianity.  The faith is tied directly into the person, not the teaching.

It comes down to this: either Christ was who he claimed to be, or he wasn’t.  It’s a very direct question, isn’t it?  It’s a “yes” or “no” answer.  And this answer forms the basis of the absoluteness of the faith.  There is no middle ground, no room for interpretation.  There can be no “Jesus was a good earthly teacher or prophet, but he wasn’t the son of God.”  Why?  Think about it – this guy claimed to be the Son of God.  Which means one of two things: either he really was… or he was a lunatic with a death wish.  Who in their right mind would stroll into the biggest city in Israel, the very front door of the teachers of the law, and claim to be the Son of God?  I don’t care how uplifting his teachings were, he must have been out of his mind.  Or he must have been right.  It’s one or the other.  It can’t be both.

I’m digressing a bit, and I apologize.  The point to all of this, I suppose, is not to judge the whole by the rantings of a few.  I can assure you there are thousands of people out there who would call themselves Christians, who are thoughtful, responsible, tolerant, and helpful.  I’m still working out my own faith.  Still analyzing and questioning (which, if you read the scriptures in context, we are encouraged to do) because that is how you grow.  I regret that the public perception of this faith is so negative, because the heart of it is the exact opposite.  And I regret that I let myself be led down shallow, unfulfilling paths instead of being more discerning.

I’ll write more on the subject another time.  I think the real message of Christ is getting skewed by these salesmen who are hunting for bigger numbers.  But that’s a message for another day.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grimm’s Top Ten Christmas Carol Countdown

I’ve always been very passionate about music.  I can’t play a note to save my soul, but I love it.  It moves me, inspires me, and reaches me on a level I cannot even describe in words, as if it bypasses my brain, my flesh, my bones, and reaches out to my very core directly.

I love orchestral and classical music.  I adore the music of Amy Lee and Evanescence (which reaches me on an even deeper level than what is described above) as well as many degrees in between.  Music inspires me in ways that defy explanation.

It is little wonder, then, that a 30 year old kid who grew up as an only child and for who Christmas has always been a very special time (perhaps moreso than most) that the music of this festive season is also very dear to me.  It is tragic to see how maligned Christmas music has become in recent years.  Overexposure to anything is never a good thing, and the fact that many retail chains play Christmas music at the stroke of midnight on October 31st really doesn’t help things.

Nevertheless, if you take the time to examine some of these songs you may find that you can appreciate them better.  Not only do they help set the tone for this season (something no other holiday/season can boast of, to this degree) but the lyrics are often very touching and surprisingly insightful.  Overexposure has dulled their meaning to many ears – so I wanted to examine my ten favorite Yuletide tunes and explore what makes them so moving.  Some are classics and some you may really wonder about – but all should be interesting to you.  This list is completely subjective, based on the things about this season that I personally find value in.  So without further adieu, I give you…

Grimm’s Top Ten Christmas Carol Countdown

(Editor’s note: Not all of these songs are “carols” in the literal sense [i.e. a festive religious song] but I think you’ll agree they all fit in with the spirit of the season!)

10.  Winter Wonderland

Writers: Felix Bernard (C) / Richard B. Smyth (L)

What better way to start off the festive list with a festive song about being… uh… festive?  The catchy tune also captures the fun of a northern hemisphere Christmas and the magic that seems intrinsic to a landscape covered in nothing but white.  It evokes some very fond memories from my childhood, when all there was to do when it snowed was… play in it!

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening, 
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Gone away is the bluebird,
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song,
As we go along,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown

He’ll say: Are you married?
We’ll say: No man, 
But you can do the job
When you’re in town.

Later on, we’ll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid, 
The plans that we’ve made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
And pretend that he’s a circus clown
We’ll have lots of fun with mister snowman,
Until the other kids knock him down.

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling,
Though your nose gets a chilling
We’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDCjHN8vFcc&feature=related

9.  Thank God For Kids

Writer: Eddy Raven

Technically, this song has nothing to do with the holiday of Christmas, but rather celebrates children and childhood from the perspective of a loving parent.  In this season that celebrates the birth of a child, and contains to much magic and wonder for children, this song is perfectly at home on my list.

If it weren’t for kids have you ever thought,
There wouldn’t be no Santa Claus,
Or look what the stork just brought
Thank God for kids.
And we’d all live in a quiet house
Without Big Bird or a Mickey Mouse
Or Kool-aid on the couch
Thank God for kids.

Thank God for kids there’s magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile
Do you ever stop to think or wonder why
The nearest thing to heaven is a child.

Daddy, how does this thing fly?
And a hundred other where’s and why’s
I really don’t know but I try
Thank God for kids.
When I look down in those trusting eyes
That look to me I realize
There’s love that I can’t buy
Thank God for kids.

Thank God for kids there’s magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile
Do you ever stop to think or wonder why
The nearest thing to heaven is a child.

When you get down on your knees tonight
And thank the Lord for His guiding light
And pray they turn out right,
Thank God for kids.
Thank God for kids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-o3rbZxUlY

8.  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Writer: John Neale (translator)

I first heard this one when we performed for it for a concert back at good old BVCA.  Our version was slightly different than the mainstream one, and I liked it more.  Nonetheless, one gets a sense of the importance of Christ’s birth in this brooding yet beautiful song.  The sorrowful longing seamlessly transitions into a hopeful yearning for the promised Messiah.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBfPnUZh-Bc

7.  Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing

Writer: Charles Wesley

A truly versatile song, I’ve heard soft and pleasant arrangements and bombastic, heroic arrangements and both work very well.  It is the glad proclamation of Christ’s birth and all that his birth represents.  My favorite line can be found just below in the first paragraph (“join the triumph of the skies”) – what gorgeous and poetic imagery.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtqWRsnDBOM

6.  Joy to the World

Writer: Isaac Watts

Another triumphant and joyous celebration of the coming of Christ, this song is fantastic with or without the lyrics.  The powerful arrangement evokes images of the long-awaited Messiah finally coming.  I’ve used orchestral versions in productions I have worked on to great effect, though the joyful lyrics are just as moving.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5iRUABBiko

5.) Mary, Did You Know?

Writer: Mark Lowry

We take a contemporary turn heading into the top five.  “Mary, Did You Know” is a beautifully written song that posits the incredible whirlwind of thoughts that must surely have been going through Mary’s mind as she bore her unborn child to Bethlehem.  Not only this, but it puts his birth in the larger context of his life and ministry by hinting at what lays in store for this baby boy who is destined to do so many amazing things.  The play on words at the conclusion of the first verse is heart-wrenching.  It’s a gorgeous and chill-inducing song and a modern classic in its own right.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfpK6cNPF7Y&feature=related

4.) O Holy Night

Writer: Adolphe Adam

One of the most eloquent songs about the human experience of the salvation that Christ brings.  This is a soft and reverent piece that perfectly captures the humble coming of the Savior, but with an almost epic subtext to the lyrics and arrangement that excites the soul at what this sleeping child means for mankind.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of Our dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world In sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d And the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks A new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts By His cradle we stand.

So led by light of A star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men From Orient land.

The King of Kings Lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials Born to be our friend.

He knows our need, To our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Behold your King, Behold your King.
Truly He taught us To love one another;

His law is love And His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break For the slave is our brother;

And in His name All oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy In grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us Praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,

His power and glory Evermore proclaim.
His power and glory Evermore proclaim.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ-8jYpa1-o

3.) Grown-up Christmas List

Writers: David Foster (C) and Linda Thompson Jenner (L)

Another contemporary classic, this beautifully crafted piece shows that even adults can have fantasies that seem childish – only instead of presents and bows, the singer’s poignantly selfless pleas are for an end to the evils of this world and healing for those who are hurting.  That is the heart of this season even for many of the secular persuasion.  Perhaps I am betraying my own childish dreams by admitting that I can scarcely hear this song (or read its lyrics) without letting a few tears slip.  After all, this Christmas list is identical to my own.

Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies

Well, I’m all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I’m not a child
But my heart still can dream

So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
and wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath our tree

Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth
(there’d be)

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up Christmas list

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAWhfBrJ4iA&feature=related

These final two songs are the culmination of everything this holiday means to me on a personal level, and it’s absolutely impossible for me to name one over another.  So I give you my top two:

Silent Night

Writers: Josef Mohr (L) and Franz Xaver Gruber (C)

There is something about the sheer simplicity of this piece that carries with it the very essence of this season.  Hearing this song, one is transported to the calm, quiet of Bethlehem that night.  I can’t say much more about it.  The lyrics say it all.

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
sleep in Heavenly peace!
sleep in Heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
glories stream from Heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, Love’s pure light
radiant, beams from Thy Holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtQr81k3TSk

Little One

Writer: Shirley Watson

Even when I was a raucous teen, this song moved me.  It moves still, now that I have my own kids.  Now that I have seen the excitement of Christmas morning from the other side of the wrapping paper.  Not only does it celebrate the joys of being a little one at Christmas time, it celebrates the Little One that we honor at this time of year.  It brings to mind memories of when my oldest was young, looking down on him as he slept and wondering what the future would bring.  Few songs cut to the heart of this season as deftly and beautifully as this one.  If it’s not part of your Christmas playlist, it should be.

She sat by the fireside ’til her eyes became too heavy,
and she wandered off in dreams with elves at play.
Daddy found her sleepin’ and took her up to bed,
where she would spend the night in Santa’s flying sleigh.
Christmas was a whisper in her ear
Sounds that only children’s hearts can hear.

Little one, in the morning when you waken
You’ll find your every dream has taken form
There’ll be joy…
Christmas day will come to life because of you
you are loved, little one!

Mary lay and pondered until her eyes became too heavy
and she finally found the rest she’d struggled for.
Joseph sat in silence, watched the baby sleeping
wondered what the future held in store.
Angel voices whispered in his ear
Reaching down, he drew the baby near.

Little one, in the morning when you waken
the world will find that God has taken form.
They’ll be joy…
And the earth will have new life because of you
You are loved, little one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWPsN-vAt00&feature=PlayList&p=3EF3662D00DF39B4&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=66

I should note that it was VERY hard to find a copy of “Little One” and I don’t think the link above does it justice entirely as it’s slightly faster paced and not as atmospheric.  Still, it gets the idea across. 

And there we are.  What are some of YOUR favorite Christmas songs?  I’d love to hear them.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 9, 2009 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Never What It Seems

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.”
– Saint Augustine

One of my favorite parts of a new project is to see where it takes me.  It’s an adventure unto itself to work out those nascent details of a new script or story, to put in place the building blocks of what will eventually become a much deeper and more complex piece of work.

Part of the reason I enjoy this stage so much is because it’s the time where the project can undergo drastic changes.  For example, a day ago I had a certain expectation in my mind about where my current project would take me.  I thought I knew where the story was headed.  Apparently, I was incorrect.  These new characters, still trying to find their footing and identities, have already showed me the folly of my ways.  If I want to tell their story, I need to be open to telling it their way.

Of course, that’s a silly analogy writers often use to describe the process.  Though the characters may seem to be alive to us, they are really just extensions of ourselves and their voices – while perhaps clear and distinct – are still our own voices.  I suppose it’s fitting for this story in a way, because as I write this, I do so with the full intent of taking on one of the roles myself.  I’ve never been a big actor but I have plenty of experience and I know how to get what I want out of the actors I’ve worked with.  I’ve done two films so far – shorts, and relatively small roles, but valuable ones.  All roles that teach are valuable, regardless of size or prominence in the story.

At any rate, I’m happy about the new direction.  It’s not what I was expecting – it’s better.  Unexpected.  I’m confident it will make for an even better script.  So, as all writers must, I will continue to have faith in my work and faith in the characters and world I am crafting.  I can scarcely wait to see the end result for myself, but the journey to that result will no doubt be its own reward.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 5, 2009 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,