Saturday, March 31, 2012

Write for the Cure. Interested?

For the second time, I participated in Relay for Life as part of the International Baccalaureate program's team. The event took place from Friday, March 30 to Saturday, March 31, 2012. Over 40 IB students participated this year from our school, as well as a few teachers, making this the largest team ever for our school. I have been touched by cancer through an aunt, a grandfather, and a cousin who all died from cancer, and a former student who, at 19, had to endure intense chemotherapy because he had testicular cancer. While he had an orchiectomy, and his chemo should have knocked out the rest of the cancer, he still has to live with this for the rest of his life. I walked for them.

I could certainly write more about that experience, and how proud I am of those who attended, walking the track behind our school with other teams, but after this event, and seeing a bumper sticker on a car driving home from dinner tonight ("Bark for the Cure"), I had an idea: what if writers could come together and create an anthology of short pieces (either poetry or short fiction) that we could then sell, with all the proceeds going to cancer research. Why not use our creative talents to help such a deserving cause?

I would gladly put together the publication, and use CreateSpace as the means to get this out there (or another option, if someone else had a better way to do this). It wouldn't require a great deal of time, I think, to write something short but poignant, focusing on any of the myriad of themes this topic could generate. Certainly, people could write about being a caregiver, being a cancer survivor, dealing with cancer in themselves or a loved one, or even just an story of inspiration.

Mind you, this is just the raw idea. I would love some feedback or input. I will do my best to promote this, but I hope that anyone who reads this could repost, share, or retweet this to other writers who might be interested.

Think about how a kind word or a heartfelt expression of love helped you when you were in need of comfort. I think stories of inspiration, love, compassion, and camaraderie could do the same.

Please email me at tchrofengl@gmail.com if you are interested or have any ideas on how to make this happen.

Together, we can find a cure for cancer.

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Interview with Kevin Gerald Rau

Kevin Gerald Rau, author of the H.E.R.O. novels, interviewed me for his website. You can see the interview here.

Thanks, Kevin!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Author Fair @ Land O' Lakes Library

And here I am at my table at the Land O' Lakes Library 3rd Annual Authors Fair on March 24, 2012. Notice the suave Task Force: Gaea couture I'm sporting. :)


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Newer Muses and Role Models

Early on in my writing, back in high school when I was immature, unsure, and very closeted, I wanted to BE J.R.R. Tolkien. His words were, indeed, magical to me, and I felt like I could get lost (and not want to be found) in his world. I don't think I ever wanted to be a hobbit, but I did want to be an observer in the Shire, Mordor, or just anywhere these characters were. The Lord of the Rings, for me, was the apex of fantasy fiction (and still is, to me). And I continued to grow as a writer by reading the series. Heroes like Aragorn were the bellows that blew the air into my writer's fire, fueling my desire to create.

Later, I stumbled upon Piers Anthony, and I think that helped cement my love of fantasy fiction even further, especially with his clever puns and the land of Xanth, which curiously looks like the state in which I live, but that's purely coincidental, I'm sure. A Spell for Chameleon, Castle Roogna, and Centaur Aisle fed my soul. Although not the same as Tolkien, Anthony had the same effect on my creativity.

I know I have gotten some chiding over the years from reading his works, but I really enjoyed Terry Goodkind's books. His Sword of Truth series I inhaled. I've read all but the three last novels in the series. It entertained me. It inspired me to write. Nothing wrong with that. I could go on about that series, but that's for another post. Nonetheless, it provided me with more forward motion.

None of those authors, however much I enjoyed them, pushed me forward as a gay writer. I have had few role models in that arena, until now. Perry Moore, author of Hero, wrote a book that made me take notice. There's a little Thom Creed in all of us, gay or straight. He has since passed on, but his legacy does indeed endure.

In the present, I have two other authors who have blazed a trail, and I look to their success for guidance. The first is Cullan Hudson, author of Strange State: Mysteries and Legends of Oklahoma and The Mound, a dear friend who helped me find the fortitude to publish my debut novel. He opened up my eyes a little, helped nudge me along, and I am indebted to him for that. In ways that are immeasurable, he has guided me as a writer and, now, a published author. I continue to look to him for direction. More recently, I have met Eric Arvin, author of Galley Proof and Woke Up in a Strange Place (among others), and his success helps to light my own path. He, like Cullan, has a generosity of spirit and a laid back personality that is much like my own, and has become yet another beacon for me. While I don't know either Cullan or Eric very well, I can see they have a following, one that I would like for my own work. I hope to meet both of them at upcoming events this year and, with any luck, glean more wisdom as a writer. A new author, too, my friend Peter Saenz, author of Coven of Wolves, also has my admiration. He'll go places, of that I am certain.

Others who guide me, as a person and a writer, and who have no less a claim on being role models are my dear friends, Randy Ham, Brett Crawford, and Brian Sheperd. These gentlemen push me out of my comfort zone, and I am indebted to them for it. As brothers do, they have each brought me to a new level of understanding as a writer, a comic book aficionado, and a reader.

Last, but definitely not least, is my partner, Gavi. His desire to pursue a career in teaching after spending many years driving limousines, willing to go back to school to finish his degree, inspires me as well. While he wasn't around when I started writing my novel, his love and support helps keep me grounded while I published it (and while I am working on the sequel). I admire his tenacity and drive to fulfill his dreams, and from that, I fuel my own drive.

My Five-Star Author Fair Experience

Today marked my FIRST public appearance as an author at the Land O' Lakes Public Library Author Fair.

In preparation for this event, I had ordered copies of the novel (ten), had T-shirts made, and last night, I printed some 11x17 signs for the table. Included in my stuff to bring would be my framed poster of the novel's cover, my Intuit credit card reader for my phone, and an open mind.

The experience didn't disappoint. I walked into the library and saw a small square of tables covered in white paper tablecloths, each with two chairs and a book holder. I met Michele Laney, the Public Services Librarian, and my contact. She handed me my name plate and showed me where I could get complimentary coffee, something not available to library patrons--only to authors.

After setting up my table, I took a walk around and introduced myself to my literary colleagues. Seated next to me was George Mavro, who writes military alternative history fiction (Operation Medina--The Jihad, Operation Medina--The Crusade). He and I spoke at length about our books, a little about politics, and even future plots for our sequels. It was nice to have the opportunity to talk to someone who had been doing this for a while so I could get some wisdom from a veteran.

Another writer, JM Bolton, another fantasy/sci-fi author like me (The City of Three Moons, The Alien Within) was quite gracious, and we chatted a bit about our respective works. She loved the cover art of Task Force: Gaea, so I told her I would give her Michael Hamlett's information. [On a side note, the poster was a HUGE hit. It definitely attracted attention to the book.]

One of the authors, Lekisha Spletzer, spoke with me about how much she loved Greek myth, and we talked about our works. She had four young ladies with her, probably early teens, who were also characters in one of her works. Kisha gave me some great information about where to get cards made up, how to price my Kindle/Nook versions, and about Necronomicon in St. Petersburg, FL. Then, she asked if I would be interested in being on her radio talk show via the Internet. I look forward to that experience.

Some former students visited: Leslie Rosado, Danté DiSabatino, and Megan Zarek (Leslie had a copy already and wanted it signed; the latter two purchased copies of the novel). Gracie Pine, a current student, visited, and she told me she'd buy a copy as soon as she had the money. I told her, "No worries. I know where you'll be until May 23rd."

Neighbors Jill and Jamie Sculerati paid a visit, and I signed a copy to their daughter. And, I finally got to meet my neighbors, Harriet and Richard Sava, who bought two copies: one for them, and one for their son, Mitch.

All in all, a fantastic experience to network, see some familiar faces, and get my name (and Task Force: Gaea's) out there. Now, I have some cards to make and some other things in the works, so if you'll excuse me, I'll get started! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GUEST AUTHOR: Peter Saenz, Coven of Wolves

My inaugural GUEST AUTHOR interview is with Peter Saenz, author of Coven of Wolves.

When did you start writing in general?

The first thing I remember writing as a kid was when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I used my school rule lined paper tablet to write out my own Friday the 13th movie script. It was probably only 12 pages long but I had a lot of fun writing it. I’ve dabbled in writing here and there since then, but it wasn’t until I wrote my short story “New Moon Rising,” which later developed into the full novel Coven of Wolves that I began to take my writing seriously.

Why do you write, and who has influenced you in your creative ventures?

I always had a big imagination as a kid and it never really went away. That’s probably why I so easily fell into being a huge comic book reader. After I’d watch a really good movie or put down a fun book, my mind would go into overdrive imagining various made up scenarios of my own. Putting it all down on paper, or computer file as it now may be, relieves a lot of my pent-up creative ideas.

As for who influences me, there’s a lot of people who fill that slot. Author-wise, Anne Rice is one of my favorite writers. I devoured every one of her vampire series books through the years. I’m half-way through her latest book, “The Wolf Gift” and am loving every minute of it. Personally though, my husband Joseph has been my biggest cheerleader. He supports me in everything I do.

How did being gay play a role in your writing?

Well, to be honest, there’s a huge hole when it comes to the roles gay people play in central media. Generally, we’re usually typecast as the gay best friend, over the top fashionistas, psychopaths, or stereotypes used for comic relief. I have yet to see a big budget action film starring an unapologetic gay character who is taken seriously AND is responsible for saving the day. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE seeing a shirtless Chris Evans or Ryan Reynolds running around shooting people as much as the next guy, but as a gay man there’s also a bit of a sting at the same time. So I use my writing to help fill that gap. In my stories gay people are just as valid as everyone else. No stereotypes or pigeon held personas for me. I’m hoping that more of these stories will become mainstream so that The Powers That Be can see the potential we as gay people have outside of what we’re now allowed.

Where did the idea for Coven of Wolves come from?

Coven of Wolves
As a kid I LOVED horror movies. I loved the feeling of being jolted by some over the top monster jumping in front of the screen. My favorite movie monster was always the werewolf. I probably watched movies like Silver Bullet, An American Werewolf in London and The Howling series a million times over. When I fell into reading comics though, my appreciation of magic and it’s potential in storylines grew also. Illyana Rasputin aka Magik in the X-Men comics definitely sparked with me. When I see these types of characters though, they’re usually written very separately. You either get a solo werewolf movie or book, or you get a solo witch movie or book. Rarely do the two ever meet. So Coven of Wolves was meant to be a project where I get to enjoy both of my two favorite fantasy creatures in one centralized plot. My central character Devin Marshall, is he a witch or is he a werewolf? He’s both actually and you get to see just how fun and scary that is for him.

Some writers like to include a little of themselves in their work. How much of you is in the novel?

There’s a lot of me in the book actually. The way Devin reacts to any given situation is generally how I probably would. Granted, our backgrounds are very different and the last time I checked I wasn’t being chased around the country by a coven of witches and werewolves, but you can definitely get into his mindset and play out a ‘what would you do’ type scenario. I’m generally a very low key/ back of the room kind of guy. You won’t ever see me standing in front of a crowd shouting “look at me, look at me”. Because of this, I purposely wasn’t obvious about placing myself in my book. That said, there are quite a bit of friends and family in my book. Some are obvious while others are a bit more vague in recognizing. I’ll let the readers try to figure out for themselves exactly who’s who.

What does the future hold for your writing?

I’m currently working on a 12 piece short story anthology book titled “New Year’s to Christmas”. I’m hoping it’ll be available to my readers by October 2012. I was thinking about tackling a nice ghost story once the holiday book is completed, but the feedback I’ve received from the Coven of Wolves book has me wanting to sink my teeth back into those characters again. I left the first book completely open to a sequel, so there’s a lot of brainstorming going on with what new adventures the new pack will be delving into. 
 
What advice do you have for people aspiring to be writers?

Everyone is different, but the main thing I would tell aspiring writers is that you are your own worst hindrance. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve told myself that what I was doing wasn’t any good or that no one would be interested in what I was writing. That self negativity did absolutely nothing but bring me down. It overly delayed what ultimately was a complete pleasure to create. Not only was my work read by others, but they LIKED it. I knew I wasn’t making Shakespeare level work but it’s still entertaining, and ultimately that’s what people are looking for. Something to take them out of their regular routines for a moment. Life changing? No, but what I wrote is still something that is appreciated. If you feel any doubt about your work, keep that in mind. In the end, you’ll always have this little piece of yourself stamped out there in the universe that no one can take away from you. And when your work is finished, do your research. Contact other writers to ask them about their experience in getting published. Some work can be released through publishing companies and others might find more success in self publication. Do what’s right for you.
 
Thank you, Peter. I look forward to seeing what your next literary adventures will be.
 
Coven of Wolves is available at Amazon.com.
 
Devin Marshall is alone and on the run from a coven of dark witches. New to the world of magic, Devin tries his best to outrun and outlast the coven he once swore loyalty to in order to save his soul. In a last ditch attempt at freedom he discovers help where he least expects it, but also manages to upset a pack of deadly werewolves along the way. Two supernatural cultures clash as Devin discovers hidden secrets about his past in an all or nothing attempt at survival. Coven of Wolves takes readers around the globe and back into time as a new universe of hidden societies, powerful witches, and sinister creatures dominate the landscape in their fight for control of an unsuspecting world. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Comment from Wonder Woman's "niece"...

Bobby Jones, Me, Christie Marston
My friend—and the fact that I get to call her a friend has made me deliriously happyChristie Marston, granddaughter of Willliam Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, had this to say on Facebook after reading Task Force: Gaea:

David Berger - i cannot believe the depth and intricacy of this storyline! and that there was so much fantastic setup before the task force came into being - i can't WAIT to see where you go with them next! keep writing! [no, really...right now...get off the computer and get to work!] the gods have never been so intriguing...and they've ALWAYS been an intriguing lot! great story! thank you! http://www.taskforce-gaea.com/

Thank you very much, Christie. May the Glory of Gaea truly be with you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Interview with Amy Manemann, author

Amy Manemann, author of Deadly Reunion, a Taci Andrews mystery, and the soon to be released Deadly Science,  as well as "the Mini Drill Sargeant for Events Communications and Blogging Communications" at World Literary Cafe, has interviewed me at her blog.

You can read it here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gay Characters and Task Force: Gaea

When I started writing this novel years ago, I had an internal conversation about whether or not I was ready to commit to having gay characters play a prominent role. It wasn't because I was ashamed of being gay myself, but rather more of a concern that my book wouldn't be well received because of the content. After all, would an 18 year old straight guy want to read a novel if the main character were gay? Or, if gay characters showed up throughout? It was something I actually spent considerable time thinking about.

I was a late bloomer and "came out" at 27. Being the eldest of three children, and the only son, I felt this weight on me to live up to other people's expectations. And, for as much as I love her dearly, I have a Jewish mother who expected me to marry and give her grandchildren. No pressure, right? I eventually grew comfortable with my decision to be myself, and now I'm an "out and proud" teacher in my school, sponsoring the Gay/Straight Alliance, but this isn't what I wanted to talk about here. I'm mentioning this because it took me some time to feel comfortable telling people who I was. As a gay writer, I never wanted to write strictly gay stories. Rather, I wanted to write about people, and if some of them were gay, then that's the way society is.

Token characters for the sake of including them never felt right to me, whether in my own work or other's work, so I had to think how I wanted to approach this in Task Force: Gaea. In two distinct places in the novel, two male characters identify as gay, although without saying as much openly. One has an experience where he encounters a man who has feelings for him, and the other is dating a man. No fanfare. No "out-n-proud" moment. To say more about them would probably be too much and ruin things in the story. In the sequel, though, the latter's relationship plays a little more prominently, but insofar as I explore the relationships of the main characters. I think, nowadays, books (or movies or TV shows) with gay characters don't raise the eyebrows they used to, unless there's blatant sexual behavior. In fantasy fiction, where boundaries of reality tend to be hazy, having characters of all types becomes the norm: werewolves, witches, vampires, gods, etc. But, men and women can still be who they aregay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or transgenderedwithout any problem at all. Why should there be?

If someone chooses not to read my book, or any one else's book, with gay characters, then that isn't a fan I want to have anyway. We live in a colorful world, and people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and orientations exist. Even as I have been writing this post, I am wondering if I shouldn't pursue gay fantasy fiction avenues for promoting Task Force: Gaea. I honestly hadn't thought about it, since the gay characters don't figure as prominently right now. But, how much "gayness" does a book have to have before people in the GLBT community would read it? Perhaps, this is enough to broaden the spectrum a bit.

I'm curious to know what you think, reader, but bear in mind that comments are moderated here. Be appropriate, please. Do you care if your books have gay characters? Does it matter which genre?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Romance in Fantasy


Recently, I’ve been pondering something that a friend mentioned to me while reading Task Force: Gaea: why is there no romance in the novel? A worthy question, to be sure, and it started me thinking about the nature of “romance” in literature. Now, I’m not sure why she commented about it—unless she truly wished to see characters engage in a romantic relationship. Within this story (about the birth of the team of heroes who were charged with saving their own world at the risk of losing their own existence), I came to two conclusions:

  1. Romance is definitely in the novel.
  2. It’s not the romance one might expect.

[1] In medieval romances, chivalry permeates the story, the knights of old acting in accordance with their tenets of proper behavior. Also apparent would be the knight’s love for a lady. The setting would be illusory and ambiguous, a place beyond the scope of time, perhaps. Layered on top of this would be the supernatural—elements that coax the imagination and ignite the internal fires. A disguised individual makes his presence known, too, and the number “three” repeats throughout the tale.

In Task Force: Gaea, the god Apollo becomes the first knight of this tale, and his adventure builds, ultimately meeting up with his lady. The heights of Olympos or the depths of Tartaros spread out before the protagonist, and these places just beyond the scope of the human mind tickle the imagination. Greek gods and primordial beings peppered throughout tie in the supernatural as well. Additionally, a man whose identity remains hidden from others (but not the reader) traverses the landscapes of the novel in search of his quest. Ultimately, the three Fates appear to entangle others in their yarn of time. So, by this account, the novel is a medieval romance, of a sort.

The main hero/knight of this tale—Danelos, his origin a mystery, furthers the plot in ways beyond imagining. Another characteristic of this hero/knight is being reared away from home, his true parents being ignorant of him. In Task Force: Gaea, I’ll leave that to the reader. This character’s identity remains unknown for a time, until his path crosses others from whom he needs help, and he ultimately finds out more about his past. How the triumph benefits anyone? Well, I think finishing the novel would tell the reader that.

[2] As far as the other kind of romance, the one when hearts combine into one, and lovers seduce, suitors charm, and people take enormous personal risks just to claim that one, true love—well… it’s not really a part of this story. Not yet. Relationships emerge, but these couplings have higher purposes beyond the interweaving of souls and building foundations to last forever. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, I found Richard Cypher and Kahlan Amnell’s relationship compelling, especially since their relationship spans the entire series of novels. But, here, I think Richard and Kahlan’s relationship is integral to the entire story, and its growth, obstacles, and ultimate maturation have as much to do with the plot as do other characters.

Apollo’s relationship in Task Force: Gaea, while certainly important to the plot, isn’t the binding thread to the story, as the reader learns. This coupling has a more divine purpose—literally. A journey as compelling as any a god could navigate, Apollo’s story ultimately brings the reader to the next logical step in the narrative, one that has much more prominence to the novel. It’s a building block: necessary for support, but not so for subsequent structure.

Romance has its place and, in the sequel, it certainly will be much more visible and pertinent. The next installment delves much deeper into characters and their motivations, so be patient, stay tuned, and more information will come your way.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Muses #3—Former Students

#3: Task Force: Gaea has been in the works since 1985 (if you count "The Olympus Corps.," the original short story, as the beginning), so it has predated my teaching career. I didn't really start promoting my writing in the classroom until 2002, when I started teaching high school English. From the onset, my students seemed intrigued about the idea of their English teacher writing a novel, and they would ask questions about it. This meant I had to know my book well. I had been working on the manuscript more at that time, although I wasn't committed to some of the plot points that later made it into the novel, but I had enough knowledge to share to pique their interest, or hoped to do that.

Cover Image
A poster entitled, "A Work in Progress" hung in my room, with a plot summary and the artwork I had acquired of my four main characters. Back then, I hadn't solidified some of the key events, so student interest prodded me into committing to some of the ideas I would later cement to the text. In essence, my students were putting a level of pressure on me to keep up with the writing, and that helped me move past the writer's block I occasionally fought with over the first few years at the high school. Trying to manage a full time teaching job, one which I thoroughly enjoyed, with writing, proved quite difficult, and I had trouble "finding balance," as it were, with all aspects of my life.

When I began teaching in the International Baccalaureate program a year later, students again expressed their interest in fantasy fiction or even in the fact that their teacher was writing a book. One student in particular, Jason Pioli, wanted to know more about the book and when "his people" and "my people" would be on the same page, so to speak. He kept asking for a sample of the work, and his interest fanned the flames under me; I became even more eager to finish. After some stops and starts, I was able to give Jason a taste of the novel, and—because of his ongoing support—I named him in my Acknowledgments. Our "people" were finally aligned. So, thank you, Jason.

Flash forward to August 2011. My current students, also eager to know more about the novel, were in for a treat. I had finished the manuscript, had it read by a few people, and had started the process to publish. I had already been in touch with Michael Hamlett, the artist who had created the inspirational pieces for me a decade ago, and had finished the cover image. Over the winter break, I had a poster made of the cover (see above), and it was hanging on the wall in my classroom when we reconvened in January. As soon as they saw it (and it hangs next to posters of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman reading), their interest seemed to explode. Their excitement became fuel for me yet again, and I pressed on with publishing even more enthusiastically.

I had placed a copy of the cover image in front of the class (an 8.5" x 11" piece of photo paper with the entire cover image, front, spine, and back) for a while, so when I replaced it one morning with a proof copy of the book, I saw their excitement build even more.

The first copy that I signed was for a student of mine, and I was unnerved. What do I say? Do I just sign my name? I wanted to personalize the message. It was historic moment for me.

My students have been a part of my life for 20 years, and they deserve credit for having been the inspiration at various points in my writing. Thank you, everyone. You've made this a worthwhile journey.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Muses: #2—High School English Teachers

#2: I guess it does seem a little cliché to say that your English teachers were your role models and muses, but it's quite true. I was a geek in high school, as much as one could be with Atari, 8-tracks, and Saturday morning cartoons, and I remember reading... a lot. My most favorite memories of being at Commack High School South were in the classrooms of Al Kindelmann, Jim Mahoney, Al Candia, and Jack McGrath.

These teachers inspired me, guided me, challenged me to levels of insight I didn't know I could reach. All of these teachers, and Mr. Ferrotti as well (who taught me Latin and Spanish), pushed me. They saw something in me that perhaps I couldn't see in myself.

Mr. McGrath
When I was graduating, I (of course) had my teachers sign my yearbook, and one teacher—Mr. McGrath—wrote something that has forever changed who I am. It was the kindling spark to help me write the novel, Task Force: Gaea. Over the years, all 27 of them, I would reflect back on this quotation he wrote and it would re-energize me.

"On a blue Aegean night, when all the gods and nymphs have said adieu, your muse will find new life."

Mr. Candia
This quote resonates with me, and that is why I dedicated my novel to Mr. McGrath. He, like Mr. Kindelmann, Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Candia, and Mr. Ferrotti, left an indelible mark on me, and I wouldn't wash it off if I could. Mr. Kindelmann taught 9th grade honors English, I believe, and he was the kind of teacher you couldn't help but listen to when he talked about literature. His humorous personality helped forge my own in the classroom, and sometimes I ask myself, "How would Mr. Kindelmann handle this?" 

Mr. Candia also had the energetic personality and teaching style that I try to emulate now. His attention to detail in my work forced me to become much more scrutinizing. When we worked on the yearbook, I designed the art for it, and he supported my decisions and guided me to making more informed ones as well. 

By the way, these photos of my teachers aren't how I remember him (it was from a yearbook years before I had them as teachers); but, it doesn't matter what they looked like—these were people who had a profound impact on me as a person and an educator.

My muse has indeed found new life, Mr. McGrath, and I thank you for it.
 
Mr. Ferrotti
Mr. Ferrotti taught me Spanish and Latin, and that language spark also kept me going over the years. My interest in Classical literature (Cato, Catullus, Virgil) all came from him. In fact, I still have a copy of the Odyssey that belonged to Mr. Ferrotti, and whenever I look through it, I remember his deep voice talking about conjugations and declensions. He also tried to tutor me in Italian, but I think my 17 year old brain could only handle so much at once, so I stuck with Spanish and Latin. I still regret not going on that trip to Italy and Greece. Someday, Sr. Ferrotti, some day!


Mr. Mahoney
I took a college course in high school—I guess it would be considered dual enrollment now—through C. W. Post University on Long Island, and Mr. Mahoney was the instructor. He, too, brought out my love of literature and writing. I've recently been in touch with Mr. Mahoney, and he gave me Mr. Grath's contact information, so I could finally tell him how much of an impact he has had on me. 

The debt I owe these teachers can't be repaid since I wouldn't know what I could ever do to show them my gratitude.

Next: #3Former students

My Muses: #1—Wonder Woman

#1: This video has just about all the elements of the character who helped spur me on to write and finish Task Force: Gaea. Who says comics can't be role models? Here you have it: Wonder Woman.

 

You want to see more? Try this: http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Wonder_Woman.

That's not even the tip of the iceberg, either. Not by a long shot.

Next: #2High School English Teachers

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gaea: the Protogenos, Earth Mother, and TFG

E. B. White once said, "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority."

Think how many times we reference "Mother Nature" or "Mother Earth" when we talk about how Humanity is destroying the environment. Many speak of her reverently as euphemism, a separate part of G-d or perhaps the female side of G-d, romanticizing the idea of nature being female because of her nurturing qualities. I don't want to get into the religious side of all of G-d's facets, because Judaism certainly discusses this and especially because I don't want this to turn into a Torah study blog, but I do want to focus some attention on the primordial entity known as Gaea, Terra by the Romans, or as we have come to know her:

Mother Earth.

White's quote speaks to the very nature (no pun intended) of the problem we have: we use the Earth as a possession, leaving it in whatever condition we like, hoping that someone else will come along and clean up after us. Well, sorry fellow humans, Mother Earth ain't that kind of mother. We are supposed to take care of HER. Now, while it's true that this planet will probably outlast us (i.e. the human race), unless we find some way to blow ourselves up, we definitely, most assuredly need to ensure Earth's survival. For as much as people might like to think that our Earth has the ability to preserve herself, she simply can't do anything with Styrofoam or plastic. Those trinkets of human existence don't decompose (although some plastics are designed to do just that, but not enough).

Gaea
In Greek mythology, Gaea was a Protogenos (primordial one), a daughter of the infinite void of Khaos, and she parthenogenically (without male assistance) gave birth to many entities, including Eros (love, not to be confused with Aphrodite's son), Pontus (the seas), Ourea (the mountains), and Uranus (the heavens). With Uranus, she had the Titans, the Hecatoncheires (hundred-handed ones), and the Cyclopes.

Gaea didn't play a major role in mythology; in fact, she stayed in the background much of the time. One of the times she did intervene was when she gave Kronos, her son and king of the Titans, a scythe of flint to kill his father, Uranus (who had been imprisoning his less aesthetically pleasing childrenthe one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheiresin Tarterus. Aside from that, Mother Earth didn't get involved in the world of Humanity.

In Task Force: Gaea, the role of Mother Earth is more than just to exist. She sees a need to get involved in issues that involve her very survival and acts upon it. In fact, she gets quite involved in the creation of an entire race of people, but there's more about that in the novel. Gaea's role as a part of a larger family becomes one of the core elements of the novel, hence why the U.N. task force bears her name. Those involved with this organization see her protection as paramount. I have great respect for the Earth, and by making Gaea a stronger, more involved primordial entity, I have given her a say in what happens to her. Maybe in our world the Earth can't actually take an active stance on survival, but the world where the U.N.-sanctioned group Task Force: Gaea exists, 'ain't nobody gonna mess with Momma'.

When we see Gaea again in the sequel, her role continues to be vital, but for different reasons, reasons that I can't explain yet. And, no matter what happens with Dan, Aleta, Sarah, and Brandon, they will give their very lives if necessary to protect Gaea... Μητηρ Παντων (Matêr Pantôn)... Mother of All.

And Gaea knows this.

For more about Gaea, visit Theoi, Pantheon, and Wikipedia.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Latest reads: The Hunger Games/Catching Fire

I teach high school, and many of my AP and IB students are avid readers of fiction, so when a few of my IB students all but accosted me with, "Mr. Berger! You have to read Hunger Games! I'll even lend you my copy!", I knew I had to comply or risk dismemberment or disemboweling, neither of which would please me.

So, during our school's celebration of reading, Read-A-Latte, I nestled myself into a chair in the library while my students read their own guilty pleasure and read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. The last time students "told" me I had to read something, it was Twilight, but I am just not into vampires and werewolves, so I respectfully begged off. After reading a chapter or two, I found it wasn't for me. But, I am ecstatic that Stephanie Meyer's works have gotten a bevy of adolescents (and adults) to read about Edward and Bella.

As I got to know Katniss, Gale, and Peeta from District 12, as well as Haymitch, Cinna, and Effie, as well as the other tributes and Capitol folk, I found that I could relate to them easily, as if I had known them for a long time. That familiarity brought me a level of comfort, even when situations in the arena did notbut that was the intention. 
Now, I could easily type out a review of the novel, with spoilers and such, but that's not my intention. Suzanne Collins' work has elicited hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bloggers, writers, and reviewers to share their thoughts, for better or worse. I simply wanted to share that I had indeed read the works, and enjoyed them. One of my students, Jessica C., had read my novel and mentioned that "your book was better." While it pleases me to know that my work surpassed that of a published, well known author for someone, after reading both books, I can honestly say Collins' books were simply different in their portrayals. Task Force: Gaea is a Greek myth-based fantasy epic, while The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are more sci-fi. Plus, while my book uses first person narration in the first half where a god whom Zeus punishes shares his experiences, the reader sees third person narration in the second half; Collins' novel uses the first person point of view of Katniss throughout. The reader truly becomes intimately familiar with all of her thoughts and feelings more.

The adversity plaguing Apollo (in TFG) affects him in ways that evoke different emotions from the reader than those events that affect the reader via Katniss' saga. I am currently reading Mockingjay, the  last of Collins' books in this trilogy, and I am enjoying it so far, but I am only (as of this post) about 30 pages into it.

Perhaps, when I am done with all three, I will post some sort of review, but right now, I'm simply enjoying the stories.

Read!

Read more books. Just do it. Find a genre or more than one that you like, and just read.

:)

SBTW6Y9Z63YJ

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sneak Peak—Be a Member of Task Force: Gaea

Here's what's you'll see soon... with more to come. Soon, you too can join Aegis, Aetos, Aether, and Zodiak.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Task Force: Gaea... What's Next?

First, don't expect any big secrets to be revealed... yet. But.. the follow up to Task Force: Gaea Finding Balance will be out around the end of the year, G-d willing.

I've spent more than half my life working on the first story, and don't think for one MINUTE that it was easy. It wasn't. It wouldn't have taken me that long to finish and publish if it were a simple task. Plus, my story had to grow and mature. I don't have all the time in the world, either, to sit at my computer and write. Oh, how I WISH I could do that. Alas, I can't. My careermy passiontakes up a bulk of my existence, and I gladly let that be my reality. Teaching makes my soul smile. But, now, writing? That makes just makes me all sorts of giddy.

I don't claim to be the next "Best Selling Author" of the 21st century, and I don't have the time or the inclination to make that happen anyway. As Macbeth says in Act 1, Scene 3 of Macbeth: "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me. Without my stir."

IndeedIf chance will have me a successful writer, why, chance may make that happen.

Anyway, the sequel! It'll delve more into (1) the personalities of Dan (Aegis), Sarah (Aether), Brandon (Zodiak), and Aleta (Aetos), as well as their place in all of THIS, (2) what this world looks like. What's changed? What hasn't? Why has what's changed changed, and why has what hasn't changed not changed... whew!

Sorry. I digress. (3) Just what role the Olympian gods play in the cosmos, or do they? Who are they? What are they? Why are they? Plus... and this is big. Quite gargantuan...


(4) the offspring of Nyx: who, what, why?


I will say this much: she's not the aloof, distant immortal who resolves to perch herself on Olympos and deign to interact with mortals. She wants to see what makes up humanityup close.

A few questions will be answered, and many more asked. You'll just have to wait and see, now won'tcha?

More to come...
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