Monthly Archives: October 2015

It’s A Wonderful Life (Maybe)

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It’s A Wonderful Life. Most of us know the story: George Baily lives a carefree life built around a dream to travel the world. Then reality sticks its nose into things, causes life to slide sideways, knocking the wheels off of Mr. Baily’s travel plans. It’s when George utters those six words that the story really begins.

“I wish I’d never been born.”

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Clarence the angel is sent from on high to give our protagonist a glimpse at a world in which he’d never existed. George begins to see that without him, certain important factors could not have occurred without his presence; lives of others would have turned out quite differently—sometimes horrifyingly so. It’s a warmhearted story, though cautionary. One designed to make viewers give pause, to find reasons to be thankful for what they have rather than find disappointment in what they’ve missed. A simple story, really. But is this rooted in reality?

James Stewart and Henry Travers in the 1946 movie 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

James Stewart and Henry Travers in the 1946 movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’

Have you ever considered your own life, what the world might be like had you not been born into it? Most certainly your presence has impacted the courses other lives have taken—and you may not even realize it.

Every time we interact with the world around us—no matter how short the time—we’ve had some sort of influence. There are the obvious situations: “If Tommy hadn’t been there to yank that kid from the burning car…” or “Thankfully Jenny stopped to talk to me at the grocery store. If she’d have left a few minutes sooner, she’d have run right into that tornado…” and even “My son the doctor just discovered a cure for…” Interesting, sure, but those could be chalked up to right place, right time. In other words, those situations could have had similar outcomes regardless if Tommy or the doctor had or hadn’t existed, and Jenny, she may have been tied up in traffic and missed certain catastrophe. Another person may have been nearby, able to rescue the boy from a burning car. And no telling how many doctors may have cracked the code on some dreaded disease if given time and resources.

I’m more interested in the seemingly insignificant situations we tend to overlook or dismiss as unimportant.

One May evening in 1990, I was getting ready to go out to my favorite rock and roll night club with a good friend. At the last minute, this friend was called into work. She couldn’t get out of it. I didn’t want to go to the club alone. Where’s the fun in that? So I decided to just spend the evening at home, watching television. But a phone call I received changed my plans, changed my entire life and future.

A small party, the little sister of one of my best friends explained. Would I be interested? If so, could I be persuaded to bring the beer? In those days, I never turned down an invite to a party.

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I showed up, a pair of twelve packs in hand and, long story short, I’d caught the eye of the blonde who’d caught my eye. We’d never met before this night. Less than a year later, we were married. Nine months after that, our daughter came into this world. A son followed about sixteen months later.

Okay, so now we come to the fork in the road. My little brother is introduced to my wife’s best friend. A wedding is performed, a son is born, and a daughter quickly follows. So now, two marriages and four children are the direct result of a last minute change of plans one evening in May of 1990.

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But there is another life-altering situation that took place right around that same May moment. I’d been working at a local K-Mart shortly after moving back to Michigan from a two year stay in Florida. A co-worker had just lost a roommate and asked if I’d be interested in moving in, maybe help him pay the rent.

We worked different shifts, so we hardly saw each other at home. But we shared the same days off. This guy didn’t have much of party sort of personality. He liked the idea of having girls around, though. Did I know of any girls we could invite over, maybe catch a movie?

A close friend—the older sister of the girl through whom I met my wife—arrived later that day, a friend of hers in tow. I didn’t make a connection that night, but my roommate sure did. He and the friend of the friend married a year or so later. They had one child last I heard. I lost touch with them over time and haven’t seen them in nearly twenty-five years, so I don’t know if they’re still together or if other children were born, but I do know that had I not lived with this co-worker for a brief two month period, he most likely would not have met his wife. Different circles; but all it takes is for that one moment and that one person to make circles intersect.

My marriage ended in divorce—as did my little brother’s. Then we lost my brother in 2010. But the children remain. Some of these children now have children of their own; lives that would not exist but for a change of plans.

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These are the small details we tend to overlook or fail to recognize. We don’t get to have a George Baily moment. Clarence the angel isn’t likely to come show us the importance of a single life. But it’s there, if only we take the time to search for it, to really appreciate how connected we all truly are in our tiny space in time.

It’s this appreciation that allows us to proclaim: “It’s a wonderful life!”

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The Hungary Eyes Blog Tour Featuring Maurice G. Miller

Greetings, dear readers. I am so excited to introduce to you my very special guest blogger today,  the talented indie writer Maurice G. Miller. Please make Maurice feel right at home by saying hello in the comments below.

Take it away, Maurice…

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Welcome to the “Hungary Eyes” Blog Tour with Maurice G. Miller

 

First, I would like to thank my gracious host for giving me the privilege to guest blog here on the fourth stop of my weeklong tour. Also, a debt of gratitude to 4 Wills Publishing for organizing all this. The tour runs today through October 14th. If you are interested in continuing with me on the tour stops (and I know you will), just click here for the dates and locations, and don’t forget to bookmark the page. Thanks!

 

Moving away from the book and my writing for a day, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the current conditions in Hungary, 25 years after the time period that the events in ‘The Budapest Experiment’ took place. It is amazing to me to watch the current resurgence of Russia, and Putin’s vision of a restored Soviet Union. During the recent season premiere, in an interview with 60 Minutes, Putin identified the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s and early 90’s as one of the great tragedies in Russian history. This, combined with the recent Middle East refugee crisis that has plagued Hungary, makes for some interesting situations. Below is a revised excerpt from my very first blog post ever in April of 2015. Please be sure to leave comments/questions/feedback at the end of the post, they are much appreciated.

Political Tug of War – Hungary Revisited

Looking through world headlines these days, you can’t help but take notice of all that is going on with Russia on the world stage. For me, an interesting sidebar to these global events are stories on the role that Hungary could potentially play in Russia’s plans.

The setting of my soon to be released fiction novel, “The Budapest Experiment”, takes place in Hungary in the year 1991. Having spent some time there in the early nineties, I have always held an interest in the progress of Hungary’s democracy, economy, and people. This is what prompted me to choose this topic for my first blog ever. Heavy subject matter, I agree, but I hope you find it to be interesting.

Region in Crisis

The annexation of Crimea and the support of rebel forces in eastern Ukraine have resulted in serious economic sanctions against Russia from the US, Western Europe, and other nations in 2014. Additional sanctions in 2015 seem inevitable. This, combined with falling oil prices, have done some serious damage to the Russian economy. Many are predicting a renewal of the Cold War, and every day there are stories of Russia flexing its military muscle, in one capacity or another, at different locations around the globe. On top of this, the recent assassination of Boris Nemstov, leader of a political opposition group against Putin’s policies, adds more fuel to the fire.

Recent assaults in the Ukraine cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Mariupol are evidence that the alleged Russian backed rebel movement is gaining momentum. Securing critical border locations and transportation routes between Ukraine and Russia would allow for covert movements of military resources between the two countries. I am certainly no expert in the area of global political, and military strategies, but it would not be surprising for me to see the rebels slowly gain more control of Ukrainian territory. Perhaps by the end of 2015 going so far as to make a move on Odessa, a major Ukrainian seaport on the northern shores of the Black Sea with key trade routes to Eastern and Western Europe. The big question is will the US and its allies have to become involved in some military capacity to stop the rebel advances, increasing tensions with Russia, and putting the world on the brink?

What’s Hungary Got To Do With It?

Much like the protagonist in my fiction novel, my first trip to Hungary was in January of 1991. It was fourteen months after the fall of the Berlin wall and the perceived end of the Cold War that had been going on for decades. I remember it as a time of great excitement, hope, and anticipation, as Russia and the former Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern/Central Europe were transitioning from Communism to Democracy, and from state to market economies. Hungary and Poland were at the forefront of this transition, with business laws in place to encourage foreign direct investment, privatization, and repatriation of profits.

As we look at Hungary 25 years later, there is an interesting dynamic going on with the current ruling Fidesz party and the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Some experts feel the Hungarian government is shifting allegiances more toward Russia and away from the European Union. The country’s key geographical location in Central Europe could be a vital piece in the political strategy puzzle that Vladimir Putin may be trying to put together. While this may seem like a far-fetched idea, citizens of Hungary are concerned about this, evidenced by large demonstrations in Budapest recently. This dynamic was reinforced by a cordial meeting between Putin and Orban on February 17, 2015, where an agreement was reached over natural gas supplies and routes. Putin’s meeting was sandwiched in between the reportedly, not so friendly, meetings with European Union (EU) leaders the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Poland’s Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. As all three of these meetings were taking place, Hungarians took to the streets of Budapest in protest, fears of a return to a Communist way of life living in the hearts of many.

Orban has recently come under scrutiny for returning the country toward centralized systems in public education and administration. Political corruption in the government has also been made to be a point of contention. The US recently denied six Hungarian diplomats entry into the country based on outstanding corruption charges. Orban is now faced with a political tug of war and the challenge of straddling the fence, trying to balance relations with both Russia and the EU. Hungary has been part of the EU since 2004. Will Hungary be the first EU country to defect and join instead the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)? Will the EEU expand their integration to include military and political union?

Hungary ‘On the Fence’ – Blog Update

Anyone that is keeping track of world news lately is aware of Hungary’s dilemma in the middle of the overwhelming refugee crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians and other Middle Easterners fleeing their war torn countries trying to make their way to asylum in Western Europe, look to choose the most expeditious route that goes through Hungary. In response, the Hungarian government has detained thousands of these refugees in camps and has built a fence to secure its border with Serbia, preventing refugees from passing through. Emergency legislation was passed allowing border patrols to use force as an additional means to keep the refugees out. The Hungarians are now building a similar fence along the border with Croatia.

As Russia is now running military air strikes against ISIS in Syria, and some claim against rebels/enemies of Syrian President Assad, it will be interesting to observe the unfolding of events in the months and years to come.

What will Hungary, the Middle East, Eastern/Central Europe, the former Soviet Bloc countries, and Russia look like 25 years from now?

On the next tour stop, some background on my initiation into the world of self-publishing.

In celebration of the blog tour, the Kindle version of The Budapest Experiment is available for download for just $.99 thru October 14th. Just click on the Amazon page link below.

http://www.mauricegmiller.com/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WHA3J0E

Maurice-G.-Miller

Author Bio

Maurice has been involved in the creative arts since his teenage years. Having worked and played in rock/blues bands for most of his adult life, the artistic role models that he came to admire were those authors, musicians, and philosophers that wrote the books, poetry, lyrics, and music that touched and moved the souls of generations. Counted among his favorites authors are J.D. Salinger, Earnest Hemingway, Dante Alighieri, and Kahlil Gibran. Deciding to take a break from the music career, he has rededicated his creative energies toward writing.

Then there is the “business geek” side of him. With an MBA degree, and having started several ventures, he has an obsession for creating new business ideas, digging into data analytics, and dissecting statistics. This passion for entrepreneurship is reflected prominently in his writing style.

Maurice’s debut fictional novel, “The Budapest Experiment”, an international thriller, was released on May 25, 2015 and is available now on Amazon.

Lots more can be found, including book info, social media contacts, and blog posts, at: http://www.mauricegmiller.com

Links

Web Site: http://www.mauricegmiller.com

Email: mauricegmiller@yahoo.com

Amazon Page: http://smarturl.it/budapestexp

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mauricegmiller  @mauricegmiller

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1DO6y6k
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1ESXMYv

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/MauriceGMiller/

Google +: http://bit.ly/1N1Jmdv

The Budapest Experiment – Synopsis

At what price would you sell your soul…?

This captivating thriller weaves business, politics, seduction, power, and religion all into a compelling tale of international intrigue.

Set in 1991, during the dawn of the Post-Communist era in Hungary, this novel chronicles the exploits of Michael, an adventurous but struggling American entrepreneur.

During this period of tumultuous political, economic, and social change, the Russian Mob is taking advantage of the ensuing turmoil to entrench itself deeper into the business landscape of the former Soviet Bloc countries.

Navigating through the streets of Budapest, Michael immediately senses an air of mysticism and lurking danger. After a few successes and trials, a series of business dealings leads him to a consulting position with the ‘Organization’.

Seduced by their women, money, and power, Michael becomes entangled in the web of Mob culture. Digging into his conscience, he encounters a spirit ravaged with feelings of guilt and betrayal, but a rapidly growing bank account serves as the means to justify his actions.

Pondering his future, Michael wonders if he can balance this extreme Budapest lifestyle with his ‘ordinary’ family life back home. After padding his wallet for the past several months, would the Organization let him just walk away, or would there be consequences?

This book is intended for mature audiences.

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