In 2015, I began a novel that would fictionalize the story of my struggles caring for my mother, and how that impacted my life. I wanted to share how the Satisfaction Skills that I taught to teen patients at Buffalo Children’s Hospital had also improved my marriage; and how the Forgiving Myself, Others and God workshops my wife and I conducted helped us to find peace. Plus I wanted to shine a spotlight on what I liked about the United Methodist Church, as well as express my strong opposition to their discrimination against homosexuals.
I also wanted to revisit the pleasure I found playing music with my wife and others (in a group very much like Friendship)for over forty years, as well as how I used music as a tool to explore the connection between the mind, body and the spirit.
My starting point for the novel was a series of short stories about my mother and me that is now published it as Caregiver Stories and Stress Solutions. After it was honored with AARP’s Social Impact Award as “a simple mind-body-spirit program for seniors, adults and teens of any faith… or no faith,” I was motivated to write more.
I also wanted to draw from my experience directing programs in drug abuse prevention, mental health, health care and spiritual care – as well as my related work as a clinical instructor of Psychiatry; an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Public Health and a research assistant professor of Family Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo where I earned a doctorate in health education and behavior.
My writing went well for the first six months. Then I read that Pope Francis had visited the September 11th Museum at World Trade Center. While there, he viewed a Bible found fused to molten metal in the rubble of the Twin Towers. It was open to Christ’s “turn the other cheek” message of forgiveness.
“What?” I thought. “Forgive the terrorists who killed thousands that day? No way!” I was so shocked that just the thought of forgiving them made me sick. My characters in The Trilogy feelthe same way.
Over the past six years, that jolt and some related soul-searching stimulated my story to grow into three novels: Friendship; The Power of Love; and The Epidemics. Two of the characters that I met in storyland (Donna and Susan and their struggles with rape, deceit and homophobia) became so compelling that I didn’t get to the storyline about my mother and me until the third novel.
The Friendship Trilogy focuses on two questions: “How did that Bible get there?” and “What does it mean to forgive yourself, others and God in an era marked by civil rights, the Vietnam War, same-sex marriage, polarization, terrorism and pandemics?”
My characters search for a life of love on a journey that takes them to the Bahamas, Athens, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, Vietnam, Manhattan, Buffalo, Grand Island and Niagara Falls. Readers will go inside a storefront drug abuse clinic, the Buffalo Homicide squad, folk music venues, a faded ballroom where Islamic Sufi dancers laugh and whirle; the birthplace of Christ; the executive suite of a large managed care organization; Christian and Eastern retreat centers; the White House; and the Capitol during the January 6th insurrection.
Please join us on the journey, and participate in author-led workshops and discussion groups which you’ll be invited to when you sign up for the newsletter