book review

5 Years Later: In Shadow’s Shadow; 9/11, Neil Gaiman, and me.

Five years ago, I wrote this piece about 9/11 and how it affected me. I think this year it is once again fitting to post as this year saw the release of Starz’s adaptation of Gaiman’s classic.

So without further ado, I give you my blog IN SHADOW’S SHADOW; 9/11, NEIL GAIMAN AND ME.

After the re-posting of this blog, I’ll embed a special video that fits the piece.


In the days before September 11, 2001 my family had much to celebrate. The adoption of my sister was finalized, we attended a wedding of a cousin in Colorado, and got to spend lots of time with family. During that trip I made it a point to make sure we stopped at a bookstore. I have always been kind of a book nut, so no one was surprised on that Sunday afternoon, September 9, when I walked out with two brand new books, an anniversary copy of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and a newer book that I had recently read a review of called American Gods. I was familiar with the author, Neil Gaiman, but not versed in his writings. This was to be my initial exposure.

On Monday, the 10th, I read Goldman’s book and fell in love with Buttercup and Wesley all over again. The Princess Bride is an American classic that never fails to spark my imagination. I probably watched the movie that evening, although I can’t remember for sure, but that is usually par for the course for me, read a book and if it’s available watch the movie. I know I did some prep work for auditions at Colby Community College the next day. They were doing the play Heaven Can Wait. If you don’t know that story, it’s about a boxer who dies before his time and is sent back into the body of a dying millionaire. He finds love and his world is changed.

I woke up Tuesday morning, September 11, and didn’t turn on the television. I’m a TV junkie, so this was a little weird for me. I didn’t turn on the radio, I didn’t have the internet in my little studio apartment, so there was no doing that. What I did do was pick up American Gods and begin to read.

American Gods is a “desert island” book for me. It’s a book I find challenging and inspiring and a true classic. It tells the story of a man, Shadow, who is released from prison a week early due to his wife’s untimely death. On his trip home, he finds himself being pursued and followed by a strange, older fella named Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard. With really nothing left to live for, Shadow goes along for the ride. Along the way, while his zombie wife follows him and warns him, he discovers that the world he knew, isn’t what it seems.

American Gods is about the death of one world pushing against the on coming push of a new world. it’s about gods, myth, and magic. It’s about technology and its hold over us today. It’s about change. It’s about being lost in a world that is changing itself around us, reshaping itself, molding itself into something new and scary.

I read this book, all day, never once did my TV click on or did I tune in the radio. This would be betraying Shadow, and Mr. Wednesday, and Mr. Nancy, and Mr. Gaiman. I set, in a complete media blackout, while the world around me changed in a moment.

I went to auditions that night, which had been cancelled, and that’s when I found out, at 7pm CST, I found out what had happened. I, like everyone else, was in shock. Everything made sense now. The leaked words through thin plaster walls, dividing me from my neighbors, that “it looked like something out of Independence Day.” The lack of cars on the streets, the lack of activity anywhere. The fact that the radio station I worked for at that time, was airing the Presidents speech, when they hardly ever did things like that.

I felt like Shadow, lost in the shadows, not knowing what was going on. Lost, confused, shocked. I could take you to one of my “thinking spots” I went to that night. The place my friends Shane, Lacy, and Becca found me at. I can take you to the parking lot where the news was first delivered to me. I could show you the apartment we all went to and watched CNN, and Fox News, and Headline News, and CNBC and every other channel that was airing news. I could take you to the small Baptist church I went to and prayed. And even though I’m not a Baptist, it seemed like the thing to do.

I remember pouring over my Bible, looking for answers that didn’t come easily. Of drawing conclusions that probably weren’t there. The world around me had changed and I was fighting that change. I wanted to stay locked in a small bubble, in Shadow’s shadow, where maybe things weren’t safe but I couldn’t get hurt. Where I was forced to think, but not put thoughts into action.

Good literature forces us to think and to act. A life changing moment causes us to act and to think. For me those two worlds collided as a tower fell in New York City.

How has the world changed in 11 years? We’re a much more global society then we were then. As high speed and wireless internet has been developed along with cheaper, faster, more mobile computers and smartphones, more people are “online”. Information is passed along, thanks to social media sites, as they happen. In 2001, there was no global Facebook or Twitter. There were no smart phones and instant Instagram uploads. No YouTube. No Netflix. That’s life on a global, technological scale. What has happened to YOU personally in the last 11 years?

At the time, Shane, Lacy, and Becca were my best friends. My only friends. The 4 of us were almost inseparable. We went to church together, we went out to eat together, we were always at one another’s houses. We were hungry for a fresh spiritual awakening. And in the years that followed, we did grew up. They all three are married now, to wonderful, godly people. Becca has two beautiful daughters. Lacy quit her long time job and moved to a small town when she got married. Shane just bought a house. I floated from job to job working in various media jobs (radio and newspaper) and hospitality fields (hotel and restaurant). Last year, I lost my job and decided to go back to college. I rediscovered my love of acting and theater. I’ve been privileged to travel over the world. I’ve made new friends and reacquainted myself with some old ones. I’ve had a play published. I’m trying to make this writing/acting thing work for me while I juggle a job and schooling.

In many ways I’m in a similar place to where I was 11 years ago. Then I had just moved back to my home town and made some new friends and sparked an old friendship. Today I’m in a different town with probably as many friends, some new and some old. I didn’t act in Heaven Can Wait in the fall of 2001, I dropped out for personal reasons. I really wanted to do the fall musical here,  Curtains, but I didn’t get cast. That’s life though. In 2001 I was a scared 24 year old kid. Scared, not that terrorists had attacked us, but scared of change and what the meant. Now I’m a 35 year old man, and while I’m still scared of change, and I think we all are, I no longer fight change, I embrace it. And that, I think, would make Shadow proud.


Thanks for taking the time to read that. I know it’s different then what I normally and nominally blog about. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to reblog it.

Now, I’d like to present to you my short monologue, WARNING SHOTS, as performed by Jocelyn Goodwin.

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Kindar’s Cure Review and Blog Tour

It’s rare that I find a book based on description alone that interests me enough to want to review it her. Normally my blog focuses on theater, theater education and arts advocacy (as I’m sure many of you know) but while preparing my own, recently complete blog tour, I read the description to this book, Kindar’s Cure by Michelle Hauck.

High fantasy? I like high fantasy.

Female protagonist? We certainly don’t see enough of those these days.

Rulership is a matriarchy? Color me highly interested!

So I signed up to review the book and got a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

From the top I was almost put off. I was having trouble reading it on my kindle (I like a black background and the formatting for this required the white background). I also wasn’t too keen on the cover (not there there is anything wrong with it, it just…didn’t grab me.) But I had agreed to read this and I’m glad I did.

The story is as follows: Kindar is the middle child The second of three daughters of the queen. She is also beset with a constant cough that makes her ineligible to rule. But that isn’t a problem, she’s the second. But a series of circumstances put her in a fight for the throne from a series of  unseen forces.

Characters grow, change and evolve as they experience life outside the protected castle and learn around a rich setting and terrific world building.

For fans of fantasy or looking for a strong, well written female hero, I recommend KINDAR’S CURE.

KINDAR’S CURE can be purchased on Amazon for $6.95.

Never Trust An Angel And Other Plays–A Review

I know that I haven’t been blogging as much lately as I had been. The sumer has been moving along fast and I’ve been struggling to keep up. However I did find time to read a new collection of plays by Crystal Smith-Connelly.

ntaaNever Trust An Angel and Other Plays is the latest anthology of short plays from Crystal Smith-Connelly. Smith-Connelly is a talented playwright whose previous work, For I Am Zeus, I really enjoyed. This collection is a little harder for me to judge because I don’t necessarily fit into her target audience with this one.

This collection of plays reexamines and looks to rediscover the God of the Bible and look at him, his Son, his enemy, and his followers in a humorous light. As a person of faith and a humorist, I was intrigued by this idea. And for the most part it worked. I wasn’t as impressed by the overall work as I was by her previous work, simply because it seems to me at times the character of God comes across as Zeus from her previous work. I would have liked to have seen a little different character development there. However the characters of Jesus and Satan are well defined and make up for God. If the collection had focused more on these characters and less on the God/Zeus hybrid, I think I would have enjoyed this work a lot more and would have given it a higher rating.

Yes the play could be argued as being “sacrilegious” but I believe that God isn’t just the creator of the world, but the creator of comedy and at times, we need to poke a little fun at ourselves. In one short play, Messiah Island, is a great look at two different kinds of people who are competing for the role of Messiah via reality television; the hyper-religious and the doing it for the fame. In my opinion, this is the strongest play out of the bunch because it deals directly with God and his followers, something I would have liked to have seen more from.

Overall, this is a strong work and one I would imagine works very well on the stage, I just wish that Smith-Connelly would have branched out a little more in her characterization of God and made him less Zeus like and Zeus-lite.

Never Trust An Angel And Other Plays is now available for purchase through Amazon as a paper-bound book or a Kindle edition.

For more information on Crystal Smith-Connelly, you can check out her Facebook page or her webpage.

Eyes Like Stars: A book review

Eyes Like Stars cover

Few books move me the way that Lisa Mantchev’s debut novel Eyes Like Stars did.

First off, fair warning, Mantchev is an old friend of mine from the mid 90s. However time and space and life being what it is, I fell away from many friends from that time in my life. Then Facebook came and a couple of months ago, I reconnected with this old friend, found out she was a published author and her book was about a magical theater.

Well, I’m an actor, a director, and a playwright and this seemed like the sort that would be right up my alley. But I resisted. I wasn’t sure why but I did. Perhaps the gods of the theater weren’t smiling on me? Perhaps Puck or Thespis or Ariel were conspiring against me. I’m not sure. I kept suggesting the book to everyone I met but not reading it myself.

I then bought it one day on Amazon. I had some credit left on a gift card and decided to use part of it on this.

I’m glad I did.

Few books move me the way this book did.

I repeat that for dramatic reasons but also because it’s true.

Eyes Like Stars is about the magic of the stage, about the power of writing, about a young girl finding her way and her place in the world, and is also about a girl finding her mother.

I love the theater, as I’m sure you know, and found my “home” on the stage, just as Beatrice Shakespeare Smith did. I am a playwright and director, just like Bertie. And I’m adopted.

I suppose at this point I should give somewhat an overview of the book. Eyes Like Stars is the story of Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, an orphan girl who lives at the Theatre Illuminata, a magical place where every character in every play ever written resides and performs. However after an a accidental mishap, Bertie, as she is known to her friends, is told she must make an invaluable contribution to the Theatre or be forced to leave forever. Bertie, with help from a pirate from The Little Mermaid, and four of the fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, decides to become a Director and restage Hamlet in Ancient Egypt. But what follows is something unexpected and original.

This isn’t Twilight transposed to the theater, this is wholly unique. This is…well it’s magic. It made this writer of theater believe in the power of theater again. It made me long to see the stars in the eyes of young actors as they discover the power of theater too.

Also Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed are awesome!

Read this book! Not because Lisa is a friend of mine, but because she is an amazing writer who has told an amazing story filled with rich characters. And if you don’t believe me, how about this quote from Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games:

“All the world’s truly a stage in Lisa Mantchev’s innovative tale, EYES LIKE STARS. Magical stagecraft, unmanageable fairies, and a humorous cast of classical characters form the backdrop for this imaginative coming-of-age.”

I highly recommend this book for all ages. You can buy it using the link below.
Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I