Sunday, November 5, 2017

This book breathes. And so do I.

Back in March this year, my latest novel--Marriage before Death--was still far from being finished. Even so I decided to touch base with my amazing narrator and friend, Don Warrick, to let him know a new project will soon need his talents. I wrote,

Just a little note to let you know that I’m half way into my new novel. It takes Lenny and Natasha to France, D-Day and beyond, and the way it’s going, it’s turning into a thriller. Very excited about it. At this point, the story seems to write itself.

And he answered back, with his endearing humor,

I can't wait! Don't forget that Uncle Schmeel spent significant time in Paris with a small jazz klezmer. Just sayin'.

Such is the power of suggestion: even though my character from an earlier novel, Uncle Shmeel, had not been planned to be part of the cast of characters here, he managed to find his way in, after this conversation, just because I had to hear Don Warrick voicing him again.

Meanwhile, Don was facing a challenge, a daunting challenge that would shake any one of us to the core. He had been diagnosed with cancer. He told me about it only much later, when it was time to start the actual work. He wrote,

I wish I could tell you that we have been having big fun this summer, but that hasn't exactly been the case.

On Wednesday of this week I finished an aggressive two months of treatment for throat cancer. I was diagnosed not long after I finished your last project and have been in the trenches fighting the battle until yesterday when I completed treatment.

My biggest worry of course was that the treatment would take my voice. According to all the medical professionals that were in the fight with me; the extremely aggressive treatment which I went through almost always results in damage to the vocal mechanism. Well, I hate to be a statistical outlier, but I am the miracle in this case. Throughout treatment I kept using my voice and performing and at the end of treatment - voila! My voice is fine and I beat the odds with a big stick.

When I went into treatment, I hesitated to let you know because the outlook wasn't very optimistic. But here I am, and thanks to God and a lot of prayers from a lot of people; me and my voice are on speaking terms.

I had no doubt that my characters needed Don to give them a voice, not just because he had inhabited them before and not just because he can step into their skin at the drop of a hat, but because he IS them. And so, the work began.

Now, when the project is done, I asked Don to write his thoughts, as I am always curious about the magic of his art and what it takes to create it, especially after what he had gone through. So now, let me share his thoughts:

This Book Breathes. And So Do I

My recording booth is tiny. The interior is painted black. When I am inside, I don’t see anything but the glow of the script and the globe of the mic. It is a sensory deprivation chamber in one sense, and a sensory generating chamber in another. For me it is a threshold leading into another world. As an actor I also know how precarious a tightrope that can be. If you’re not careful, not aware, you can fall off the rope and forget about the craft.

Uvi’s books bring me to the tipping point sometimes. Like the epilogue of her most recent work “Marriage before Death”. I know Lenny. I have been inhabiting him for quite a while now – but sometimes I am taken off guard by how real the emotions he feels become to me. Especially when I am in the mind of Lenny as an older guy. It is in these moments when I face his demons, that I face my own.

Back in June I was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. Yea, I had to let that sink in too. But after throwing a sufficient enough pity party for myself (everyone does it) I launched headfirst into the bizzaro-world of cancer treatment. It was intense and relentless. A weird psychodrama where I was plucked from my regular world into a fictional world. I could at times watch myself as the cancer and the treatment kicked my ass.

Then, after 13 weeks, they gave me a sticker and sent me home. For a week or so, I lolled around in my own mind, trying to remember normal. Then Uvi Called. A new book. A new project.

And I had no idea if I could find my way into the recording booth. It’s dark in there and only a step away in the wrong direction to bizzaro-land. My head and neck still radiated like meat that had been slow roasted. My strength had vanished with 40 pounds of body weight that I really didn’t have to lose. My wind was gone. But I still had voice. I could still make a resonant sound albeit a quiet one. The recording booth. It’s dark in there.

So Lenny and Natasha and Mama and Uncle Schmeal and a whole new cast of characters and I opened the door to the booth. It creaked. I sat down, and over the next few days recorded the book. I stayed on the tightrope (mostly) except for the final scene – the epilogue. I fell off a lot. I got scraped and bruised and brushed by characters who were reminding me of my own frailty.  I stopped and started and sputtered. And cried. A lot.

A couple of months later and the sky has cleared. The post production editing is done, and the geeks at ACX are putting our work through the qualifying process. Maybe Thanksgiving?

No, there is no doubt. Thanksgiving. Not a holiday, not the cultural Norman Rockwell landmark. Thanksgiving for the character and the author who didn’t give up on me. Thanksgiving for my wife, Uvi’s friend Deb, who cared for me like the sick child I was, with such unconditional love.

This latest book of ours has blood and bone in it. It has sinew and the fibers of human beings both real and imagined. This book breathes.

And so do I.

Deb and Don

Uvi and Deb
Deb is holding my poetry book, Home, which she got from Don as a birthday gift.
(Behind us, over the mantel, is my oil painting that became the cover for the book.)

Don Warrick's Website
His body of work:

Uvi Poznansky
Mary Campisi 
A Family Affair: The Promise (Truth in Lies book #7)  
A Family Affair: Winter (Truth in Lies, Book 6) 
A Family Affair: Christmas (Truth in Lies, Book 5)
A Family Affair: Fall (Truth in Lies, Book 4) 
A Family Affair: Summer (Truth in Lies, Book 3) 
Michael J Dawson
Oleg V. Oksevski
Richard James Chance
Julie Elizabeth Powell
John Franz
Artistic Direction
Dayton Playhouse, Dayton Ohio
Central Ohio Professional Theatre, Columbus Ohio
Covered Bridge Theatre, North East Maryland,
A Little Night Music - Fredrick
Kiss Me Kate - Petruchio
Mack & Mable - Mack Sennett
Man of La Mancha - Don Quixote
Sound of Music - Capt. von Trapp
South Pacific - Emile DeBeque
Sweeney Todd - Sweeney
The King and I - King of Siam
Two by Two - Noah 
The Grand Duke - The Grand Duke
HMS Penafore - Ralph
Pirates of Penzance - The Pirate King 
The Merry Widow - Danilo 
The Mikado - Nanki Poo 
Orpheus - Mercury
Les deux aveugles - Patachon
Die Fledermaus - Eisenstein
Gianni Schicci - Gerardo
La Boeheme - Parpigno
La Traviata - Georgio Germont
Marriage of Figaro - Don Basillio
The Impressario - Herr Eiler
A Lion in Winter - Henry
Lend Me a Tenor - Tito Merrelli
Medea - Jason 
Oleanna - John
On Golden Pond - Norman
Plaza Suite - Jessie Kipplinger
The Odd Couple - Felix 
The Rainmaker - Starbuck
Zoo Story - Jerry 
Brigadoon - Tommy Albright
Camelot - Arthur
Candide - Candide
Jacque Brel - Player 
Convenience - Abe
Fantastics - El Gallo
Godspell - Jesus
Guys and Dolls - Sky Masterson


  1. wonderful article. I was so touched by what Don went through and how he excelled! Being a retired oncology nurse, I saw the bravery of my patients every day, how they never gave up. So happy you could do this Don! God bless you!

    1. Here here! This bravery is pure inspiration to me. Thank you Charlene!

  2. Interesting conversation betwwen you and Don. I see how he developes the understanding of your work.