Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Moving on to my next book . . . Inspector Javert

Javert - Les Miserables - Character notes - DC Heroes RPG ...
Javert, from Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo, published in 1862
.

Having just launched Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words, what's a writer and avid Les Miserables junky to do? Follow BM with a book about the most dangerous and mysterious of all Victor Hugo's antiheroes, Inspector Javert (if he ever had a given first name, it isn't mentioned in the novel)? 


It's as if he came from the womb a dedicated policeman. His single purpose in life?  To catch and jail every lawbreaker in his path, until the just and punishing God he believed in and whose cause he served (in his own misguided way) carried him to his eternal reward. "Job well done," my son.


In fact, this young, innocent child quickly decided he had only two possible life-choices in front of him . . . follow his fortunetelling mother and his father, both of whom were serving prison sentences at the time of Javert's birth . . . or to become the most impeccable and zealous lawman ever created. And go to his grave with a clean slate to be welcomed by a choir of angels singing, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the reward your flawless service has merited."

Since 1862, Javert has become known the world over by readers of Les Miserables and audiences packing movie theaters and stage venues. We know him as a tragic foil to the the man of principle and charity, Jean Valjean (who assumes a variety of identities in his desire to cover his tragic past as the paroled prisoner 24601). These two antagonists  first met during Valjean's prison years. As chance--and Victor Hugo--would have it, they cross paths again . . . twice, at least, during Valjean's life in Western France and finally in Paris.

The question for me was . . . why do I want to enter the dark mind and soul of this man who dedicated his life to bringing lawbreakers to justice with a vengeance unsurpassed in world literature? To be honest, I fought it for months. After writing about the wonderful bishop who turned Valjean's life around and set him on a course of compassionate living and works of charity, I balked. Throughout the writing of Bishop Myriel, I reveled in probing the soul and good works of that great man. Then, why Javert?

Yes, why Javert?

(to be continued)










Saturday, May 16, 2020

California Writer's Club--Mt Diablo Branch Newsflash


Al Garrotto's New Book,  Read On...


I’m delighted to announce publication of my 9th novel. Not many who have seen only the stage/musical version know that Bishop Myriel is the first character to appear in Victor Hugo’s 1862 classic. Or, that Hugo devoted the novel’s first 90 pages to this backwater priest. The bishop’s immortal words to Jean Valjean have burrowed into the world’s consciousness: “My brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you . . . and I give it to God!”

Hugo reveals that the bishop intended to write a book on the topic of Christian Duty. Hugo also provides a detailed outline of the book, along with the fact that the bishop never not got to finish it—until now. In Bishop Myriel, I delve into the bishop’s generous spirit, “channeling” and writing his book, as he might have . . . in “his own words.”

  “A stunning achievement! Alfred J. Garrotto delivers compelling spiritual insights through the humble voice of  Victor Hugo’s beloved priest, Bishop Myriel. Meticulously researched and delivered in the style of an early nineteenth-century writer, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words charms as it challenges.
Judith Ingram, author of Forgiving Day by Day

“Alfred J. Garrotto has written a magical book. He moves into the ‘being’ of Bishop Myriel and explores Duty, Hope, Faith, and Love with passion and vulnerability. Victor Hugo has a smile of approval as he glances down from heaven.
Kathryn Davi-Cardinale, author, Joseph, My Son-My Guide

e-Book and paperback editions available on Amazon.com  
IngramSpark edition available through bookstores.  
View the Trailer on YouTube.  
ISBN: 978-0-578-64441-7


      * * * *

Monday, April 13, 2020

View the new trailer for Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words


I invite you to watch the trailer for my new novel, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words.






Available now in both ebook and paperback formats.



Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Interview with Alfred J. Garrotto

Dear Friends:
I invite you to read this interview I did for the monthly newsletter of the California Writers Club, Mount Diablo Branch [Central Contra Costa County, California].


I invite you to read my new book (follow this link)



Approximately how long have you been a California
Writers Club (CWC) member and why did you join?


I joined CWC in 1996. I knew about it beforehand but wanted to have a published novel (A Love Forbidden) before joining a professional writers’ organization. This reasoning was skewed, I admit, because the novel was my fourth commercially published book. The first three were a series on adult faith formation. At the time, I didn’t think those “counted.” Go figure.

How has your CWC membership helped you or your writing?


Membership in CWC has been invaluable in helping me grow (gradually) into    a much more mature writer in every way. Looking at my early books, I feel like 
going back and reediting/republishing them. I am a better, more professional
writer now than I was when I first joined the branch.

You have published a lot of books! What is the total number published, and did you have a traditional publisher
or 
publish them yourself? If your work was self-published,
why did you 
decide to publish your work  yourself?

I have just published my 13th book (5 nonfiction, 8 fiction). I had agents for my earlier books. When I hit the “senior citizen” stage of my life, I realized that I no longer wanted to endure the year or two it took to see my books in print from the time of sale. I switched to print-on-demand for my last four or five books because I can control the entire process from concept to writing to editing and publishing. I have been able to go from first written word to publication in less than a year. 

If your work was published with a traditional publisher, 
how did you find your publisher?

The now-defunct Winston Press (Minneapolis) published my first three nonfiction books. They were very good to me throughout the process, even flying me to their home office for consultation. I had no agent for those books. They sold pretty well in the low thousands).

I had two different agents for my next set of books. These were bought by small publishing houses (Genesis Press and Hilliard & Harris). It was then that I learned the harsh reality of small presses. They did little if anything to market my books. After the agent’s cut plus the publisher’s profit, I got a very small percentage on the sale of each book.

Do you have a favorite, or one that you enjoyed
writing 
more than others?

Nothing ranks higher than completing and selling my first
novel (
A Love Forbidden). I got very emotional—even wept—
when I felt opened the box containing printed copies of my
novel. Seeing the book “in the flesh,” so to speak was
overwhelming. 
Next to that, my most joyful writing
experience was the planning and creation of
Bishop
Myriel: In His Own Words
.

How long have you been writing?

            Professionally, for about 30+ years.

             Do you have a website?

Yes, I have a website (https://www.alfredjgarrotto.com) and 
a blog site (https://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com)
I’m on Facebook at AlfredJGarrottoAuthor
and Tweet at @algarrotto

What are you currently working on?

My novel, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words, is now
available 
in e-book and print formats at Amazon.com
(see link above 
under cover photo. By mid-May it should be orderable at any bookstore. The paperback
edition saw the light of day in 
March 2020. In Les
Miserables, Victor Hugo outlined in detail a book
that his character, 
Bishop Myriel, intended to write. 
Then, Hugo added that the bishop got no farther
than the 
outline.
In my book I dare to write the text for the bishop,
following the 
exact outline Hugo laid out, just as the
author
might have written it. It is a great challenge, but I do my best to crawl inside the bishop’s mind
and channel his beautiful spirit.

In which genre(s) do you write?

I write fiction, nonfiction, poetry, with an occasional
magazine article 
or book review. My fiction works range
from romantic thrillers to the 
spirituality of creative
talent 
(The Soul of Art.).

How have your background, previous work and/or
experience contributed to your writing?


Mightily. I spent 12 years in the seminary and 18 years as a
Catholic 
priest, before being called to another vocation—
marriage and parenthood. 

For the last 20 years, I have served as a lay minister in
my local parish, 
so my earlier education in philosophy and theology and my life experience in parish ministry
were not wasted.

What do you like about writing?

The most fun in writing is that you never know what is inside
of you 
until you see it on a page. When I look at any of my
published work, 
I’m likely to say, “This is really good. I wonder who wrote it?” Even though my name is on the cover
or in the byline of a 
magazine article, I’ve had the same
experience of wondering where all 
those ideas and their
literary 
expression came from. It can’t be the same guy
I see in the mirror every 
morning.

Who or what has influenced you the most as a writer?

It may sound corny, but I think of my ability to write publishable
prose (and some 
poetry, too) as pure a gift from the Creator Spirit.
I don’t want to seem too pretentious, 
but that’s how I identify
my primary muse. 

I’d say my greatest source of inspiration has been the Mt. Diablo
Branch
of the California Writers Club and all the amazing authors
I’ve met and been influenced 
by over the last quarter century.

How do you define success as a writer?

I write because I cannot
not write. I am not a famous or
even 
noteworthy author. I make very little money
considering the hours, 
weeks, and months of thought and labor
writing and publishing 
demands. I am a “successful” author,
if I am faithful to my originating 
inspiration to write and have
done my best to translate that inspiration 
into language that
might inspire others in some way. In short, I am a success 
if I gave it my best effort and feel good about the finished work.
Anything 
else that follows is a welcome surprise.

What part of the writing process is most difficult
for you? 


Most difficult socially is to balance the time I need to write with family time—I can’t write in 5-10 min. spurts. When I’m on a roll, it’s hard to break away and be present to the
people around me.


In the independent publishing process, the hardest part is meeting the specs of the automated software. This is especially true of paperback and hard cover publishing. I’ve found KDP persnickety but doable. I finally had to hire book designer Andrew Benzie to upload my cover and interior
to IngramSpark. 


What kind of research do you do, if any, and how longdo you spend researching before beginning a story/piece of work?

In writing Bishop Myriel, my research has been ongoing for a
number 
of years. I’ve read the text so many times that it’s
ingrained in me. 
I did have to do some research but found
everything I needed 
online (mainly Wikipedia for dates
and name spaces/spelling, etc.).


Paying attention to pre-awakening (morning) inspirations is valuable. I get some of my best ideas, answers, solutions in the haze of waking up.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I’d say it’s more energizing than exhausting, but there are
limits. 
After in intense session, I need to just shut down,
then pick it up 
again later (or the next day.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

I run into so many people who want to write but never seem 
to make time for it. They say everyone has at least one book in 
them, but only a few of us actually take the time to do it. If onewants to write, there’s no other way but to do it.

What are your future writing goals? I have at least two more books in me, if God gives me the yearsand good health to accomplish this. 
(1)   I want to write a 3
rd volume in my Wisdom of Les Miserables series. Bishop Myriel is #2. The first was Lessons
from the 
Heart of Jean Valjean. I intend to finish with Inspector Javert:  In His Own Words. Part of me shrinks from
entering that man’s 
dark hole, but I’d like to fill in some
blanks of his life. 


(2)   I want to do a second expanded edition of The Soul of Art.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

No, I’ve probably said too much already.



Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bishop Myriel--A Professional Review


Spiritual writer, Judith Ingram (Forgiving Day by Day), has just published a review of my new novel, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words.  I am pleased to share it with you here:







REVIEW by Judith Ingram

A Stunning Achievement!

Alfred J. Garrotto has composed a novel that ushers Victor Hugo’s fictional character, Bishop Myriel, out from the shadows of the Les Misérables stage play to the front-and-center position to which Hugo’s famous novel assigns him. Hugo hints in his novel that the bishop was writing a volume on Christian duty but left it unfinished. Garrotto steps in to cleverly elaborate on the bishop’s detailed Scriptural outline—thoughtfully provided by Hugo himself—and composes a work of theological reflections as if penned in the good bishop’s own hand.

Calling himself the ghostwriter in this tri-level authorship he shares with Myriel and Hugo, Garrotto quickly immerses his readers in the voice and heart of Bishop Myriel through a series of autobiographical vignettes. The charming formality of the bishop’s narrative and pitch-perfect style befitting an early nineteenth-century writer render the ghostwriter invisible and magically transport the reader to the very feet of this humble priest, wise beyond his years and devoted to Christian service.

After his introductory vignettes, the bishop presents his “completed” work, Duty. While the stories charm and endear the bishop to his readers, Duty stuns with its brilliant, incisive treatment of fundamental truths of Scripture and their application. The bishop laments his own shortcomings, yet his love for Christ and passion for giving himself to others in service outweigh his flaws. The reader is left to wonder whose soul is truly revealed by these deep wells of compassion, understanding, and purity of heart—is it Myriel’s, Hugo’s, or the ghostwriter’s? The bishop might answer that all such beauty must ultimately spring from the Christ Himself, to whom all three authors give first honor.

*    *    *

Bishop Myriel is now available for presale in e-book format. The paperback edition is due out in early to mid March of this year.
 
I hope all you Les Miz fans out there will enjoy this most unusual book. Unusual how? It is a fictional story whose protagonist is a fictional character created by the master fiction writer  Victor Hugo.








Monday, February 3, 2020


I'm delighted to announce that my latest novel, BISHOP MYRIEL: IN HIS OWN WORDS, is now available for presale on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084FVJQBX?pf_rd_p=ab873d20-a0ca-439b-ac45-cd78f07a84d8&pf_rd_r=SBW6388S744NB5YSMGJ5

The paperback edition will follow shortly after the ebook's release on February 25.

All Les Miserables and Victor Hugo fans will enjoy this novelized version of the man who changed Jean Valjean's whole life.

I claim the title, ghostwriter, with

great humility and esteem for

Bishop Myriel, Victor Hugo’s catalyst

character in Les Miserables. Basing this novel on an already

well-known and 
beloved fictional protagonist posed a

challenge, to say the 
least. As did "channeling" the bishop's spirit, so I could speak in his voice.


*    *    *



In the dramatic stage adaptation of Les Miserables, with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, French lyrics by Jean-Marc Natel and in English by Herbert Kretzmer, Bishop Myriel appears early in Act I for barely a few minutes. During that brief encounter with mendicant Jean Valjean, the bishop bestows upon the wild-looking parolee the inherited Myriel family treasures (silver dinnerware and candlesticks). Before they part ways on stage, the bishop spontaneously “commissions” Valjean with a new calling in life:

“Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”

With that surprising and confusing revelation, the bishop withdraws from the stage not to be seen again until Valjean’s deathbed scene when he appears to the dying man as in a vision.
How different the scene in Hugo’s original!
The first lines of that sprawling epic present Bishop Myriel front and center as a major player in the story:

In 1815, M. Charles Francois Myriel was Bishop of D____. He was a man of seventy-five and had occupied the bishopric of D____ since 1806.
Fantine, Book the First, Chapter I, Myriel

In the commission scene, the bishop’s final words to Valjean are:

“Remember this my brother, you will use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the Passion and the Blood, God has raised you out of darkness; I have saved your soul for God.”

Soon after being released, however, Valjean robs Petit Gervais, a lone child on a deserted road. Suddenly, he recalls the bishop’s mandate (in this abbreviated form):

“. . . you have promised me to become an honest man. I am purchasing your soul; I withdraw it from the spirit of perversity and give it to God Almighty.”

Myriel and Valjean never meet again, at least not until Jean Valjean lies on his deathbed. Hugo describes that scene as follows:

The portress had come up and was looking through the half-open door. The physician motioned her away, but he could not prevent that good, zealous woman from crying to the dying man before she went”
“Do you want a priest?”
“I have one,” answered Jean Valjean.
And, with his finger, he seemed to designate a point above his head, where, you would have said, he saw someone.
It is probable that the Bishop was indeed a witness of his death-agony.

Over the century-and-a half of the original novel’s existence, a number of abridged versions of the 1,200-plus pages have appeared. Some publishers made an editorial decision to abridge the text. In doing so, they generally omit the statement that Bishop Myriel was in the process of writing a book on the topic of Christian duty. I am grateful for Charles E. Wilbour’s  unabridged English translation (1862, the very year of the novel’s first publication. Wilbour includes Hugo’s detailed, Scripture-based outline of the bishop’s opus-to-be. Random House’s Modern Library Edition of Wilbour’s translation (2000) filled that important gap.

We are told by Victor Hugo himself that the work remained unfinished. The bishop’s detailed outline captured my imagination and launched me on a twenty-year inner quest that has resulted, finally, in this historical novel. Probing Les Miserables’ expansive spirit became my passion. I can only hope that I serve the good bishop well by attempting to channel his spirit. And so, I dare to offer what I call a first draft manuscript of Bishop Myriel’s book. In doing so, I have done my best to preserve Duty’s outline as created by the original author. 



Monday, January 6, 2020




I am happy to share my favorite reads of 2019


Literary Fiction
The Walls of Lucca
by Steve Physioc

A wonderful family sage
set from WWI to the Rise of Mussolini
—history, drama, humor, spirituality all in one story


Best Short Novel
Tortilla Flat 
by John Steinbeck

Sweet tales of Mexican-American people
in post-WWII era Monterey, CA
2019 Religious nonfiction


Paul: The Apostle
by N. T. Wright

Excellent insights into Paul, man and apostle;
top-notch scholarship and spirituality

The Universal Christ
by
Richard Rohr, OFM

A reminder and reawakening of the true,
everlasting nature of Jesus the Christ

Jesus and the Jewish Roots
of the Eucharist
by
Brant James Pitre

masterful biblical scholarshipties the events of the Last Supperto the fulfillment of Passover

Poetry
 Rain and Embers
by
Ali Nouri

Beautiful, heart-rending poemsin a cycle of love lost and love found



Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bishop Myriel--in his own words . . . new novel to arrive in early 2020



Early in 2020, I’ll be releasing my 8th novel, “Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words.”Les Mis fans will enjoy this inspiring story. 

Current tentative cover

Writing in the voice of Victor Hugo’s beloved fictional character is requiring me to climb inside the body and soul of this great yet very humble man. 

Writing in the bishop’s own voice is a personally rewarding challenge. It requires me to “channel” Hugo’s bishop, Les Mis’s catalyst character. 

The bishop’s generosity and personal challenge (“to become an honest man”) sent the former convict,  John Valjean, on his way to becoming the courageous, exemplary man who served to the poor and suffering (les miserables). 

Stay Tuned.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Coming in 2020--Wisdom of Les Miserables. Book 2

I'm working hard on the second book of my Wisdom of Les Miserables series. It's tentatively titled, The Beauty of Goodness.
My focus in this second volume is on Bishop Charles Francois Myriel, the catalyst character in Victor Hugo's masterpiece novel. Myriel, you'll recall, is the man who launched the paroled convict, Jean Valjean on his life of compassion and social justice.

What many Les Mis readers do not recall from the book is the fact that Bishop Myriel had a dream of writing his first--and only--book. The theme was to be Duty in the life of a Christian. (Not exactly a winning title were it to be published today.)

Victor Hugo Statue
St. Peter Port
Isle of Guernsey
Photo by Toni DiModica
Hugo provides a fairly extensive and complete outline of the book. But it ends there. He (the author and "puller of literary puppet strings") did not let the bishop complete his treatise. In The Beauty of Goodness, I dare to write my own imagined "first draft" of the bishop's book--using the first person voice of Myriel.

The book will also contain my own personal reflections on the the bishop's themes and chapters. I am also adding original poetry and questions for the reader's reflection as part of the structure of each chapter.

I'm looking at a 2020 release for this work and invite you to contact me with any comments, suggestions, cautions . . . whatever, if you'd like to share them with me, as I move along through the text and draw it to completion.




Sunday, June 23, 2019

Father's Day Homily 2019


The following homily was delivered on Father's Day 2019 (June 17, 2019) by Alfred J, Garrotto, owner of this blogsite, and his daughter, Cristina Garrotto, at Christ the King Church, Pleasant Hill, CA.  

Click the link below to view the video:

YouCut_20190616_140154167.mp4

The Following is the text of the homily in print.




Part I

Dad

Good (morn/aft/eve) . . .
(Introduce Cristina, who is sharing this Father’s Day homily.)
We’d like to share with you a very personal family story. How our family came together . . . and something about our lives together over the past 30 years. 

Every family needs an origin story—ours is best told in a bedtime story I used to tell the girls when they were little:

God commissioned two angels . . . each was to deliver a little girl to the Garrotto Family in Martinez . . . . On the way they made a wrong turn!
. . . . . One ended up in El Salvador . . . the other in Honduras
. . . . .Esther and I had to travel thousands of miles to find those lost children.

Cristina

Dad talked about “lost” angels. I want to share my story of finding my angels.
I was almost 4 when I first saw my parents. My first impressions were:
  my “knight in shining armor” . . . most beautiful woman I’d ever seen—still today.

Some years later, I wrote a poem about my experience:

“Never shall I forget . . .”     
It began….. Never shall I forget
the day that changed my life forever,
the day that made me so excited
and so scared
at the same time.

Part II

Dad

6 years ago, our family hit a very rough spot in our history. . . Cristina made a choice that resulted in her leaving home . . . . and living on the streets . . . practically right in our own neighborhood.

This led to a lot of self-questioning on my part . . . sense of failure as a father/parent . . . I needed to let her go . . . I had to find that fine line between helping her . . . . and enabling her to remain in her addiction (which would have made her situation even worse).

We never stopped loving her . . . never stopped wishing her well . . . never stopped praying for her . . .
We committed ourselves to providing a safe port—if she ever decided to change her life . . . and come home to us.

During that whole time, our parish community joined with us in praying for Cristina . . . .
Every week, people asked about her and supported us with their love and promises of prayer . . . .
Some of you may be here today . . . . for which we will be eternally grateful.

Cristina

When I chose to leave my family. I felt broken and didn’t know how to fix myself. I made many poor choices. I lost my identity. At the same time I lost my family, my career as a Social Worker . . . all that used to be important to me.
Shame and guilt had built up so much that I couldn’t come back home. I didn’t care about the damage I caused my family.

I did to my parents what I feared most myself—I abandoned them.
I reached a point—my rock bottom—where the pain was unbearable.
I remember one specific day, just 15 months ago….
 • when 3 random strangers said, “You look like you need a hug.” Each one hugged me and I felt some sort of connection to their spirit.
  The very next day . . . I called my mom who told me about her prayer the day before . . . “Jesus, find someone to put your arms around her today and guide her back home.”

At the point when I surrendered, I received the gift of desperation. This is when I reached out to my Higher Power.


Part III

Dad

Over the past year our family has experienced the miracle of reunion . . . . This has been a time of healing for our family . . .
laughter has returned to our home . . . . . We rejoice over finding again the one we had almost lost.

We didn’t get the old Cristina back . . . . she was a whole new person
. . . . the Cristina we had not seen for many, many years.

Cristina

This journey has inspired me to be a beacon of hope to others in recovery and in my social work career, assisting the underserved homeless population.

Conclusion

Dad

Dads (and moms, brothers, sisters), is someone in your family “off the rails” -- TODAY?
Today we heard St. Paul writing to Christians in Rome:

trials produce patience, /  from patience comes merit; /
 merit is the source of hope, /  and hope does not disappoint us, /
the Holy Spirit has been given to us, /
pouring into our hearts the love of God.

So, never give up hoping . . . Don’t stop praying . . .
Be the Christ for your son, daughter, or loved one . . .
Be a safe harbor in the storm . . . when they find their way back.

Make your own the prayer that Esther prayed . . . .
Jesus, find someone to put YOUR arms around my loved one today . . . . and guide them back home.” Amen!