Tag Archives: fiction

Review of ‘The Caliphate’

As I’ve said elsewhere, I am generally in the business of producing books, not reviewing them. As the Editress also has learned, doing what we do well sometimes makes it difficult to find a satisfying work in which to lose oneself through the magic of immersion. Recently I did that, and my resulting thoughts exceeded the venue of a retail book review. Here’s the first part of what I had to say about author friend Anna Erishkigal’s latest:

The Caliphate is wound around the premise that an ISIS-like conquest of the United States has been successful. One might think ‘Yeah, like that would ever happen,’ until Erishkigal constructs her disturbingly plausible backdrop for the novel to follow.

Eisa McCarthy is a faithful Muslim, one who refuses to set aside her humanity in the name of doctrine. We see the story through her eyes as she navigates her difficult path. Burdened by memories of a father now besmirched by propagandized history into the image of a traitor, she finds herself propelled by her circumstances into a fold of resistance marking America’s last efforts at redemption.

'The Caliphate' on Amazon

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The parallels the author draws between the current landscape in Syria and Iraq and a future United States are unsettling, as they portray present-day atrocities with unflinching accuracy. The dominion of evil Eisa opposes is factual, departing only in scope from conditions experienced already inside less fortunate borders. Likewise, the courage of female fighters against a misogynistic foe is drawn from our world and extended into the author’s adroit, fictional presentation.

One is left with the conclusion that, yes, this could happen here. If it does, we will have the same choices Eisa, her compatriots, and fellow victims of dominant, Islamist fundamentalism do: resist for the sake of those who can or will not, or hope for the best at the sparse mercy of conscienceless oppressors.

Overall, a solid work of thriller/suspense and an easy five stars.”

That was the easy part. Dealing with the threads of actuality the author pulled together into to this work  came next, all part of the era our world will attempt to resolve into the foreseeable future.

One of her themes is the nature of absolutism, in particular Islamofascism of the type now plaguing portions of Iraq and Syria. Fundamentalist Muhammadanism continues to export its proponents into every corner of the globe via the infrastructure of a world growing smaller by the year. As in Anna’s backstory, misplaced guilt and sympathy provided the inroad for a substantial population of assets who intended to fulfill the vision of their Prophet:  to conquer each piece of land on which they place their foot.

Here stateside, we only days ago decided a presidential election. One of the major candidates for years had been advised by a staffer connected to the transnational, Sunni Islamist ‘Muslim Brotherhood.’ Huma Abedin fulfilled for Hillary Clinton a role similar to Valerie Jarrett, a current Senior Advisor to the President and of Iranian birth who principally influences his foreign policy. Had the electoral process gone another way, through  the fruition of policies enabling Muslim influx we might have been well on the way toward the same type of soft cultural  jihad currently being suffered by Europe.

Anna extended the premise into a plausible scenario, in which the movement eventually gains control of America’s nuclear arsenal. Afterward the regime holds the threat of annihilation over not only America but the remainder of the civilized world.

There she hits another thread weaving itself through human history. There are two types of us, you see. The first and perhaps the larger contingent would rather give in than get hurt. Those hope for the best, that their predators in life will pass them by, and that they will be allowed to continue what is an essentially undeserved existence. For the bright spirits, the heroes amongst us such as Anna’s protagonist Eisa McCarthy, the opposite philosophy takes hold. From somewhere within, the Spirit finds a foothold, and one finds the reverse to be true. Courage follows, and one threads a path though fear forward to decisive action.

Conflict is tiresome, and those who seek to dominate their fellows know this. Domineering personalities therefore promote division at every level possible, so their policies might eventually flourish through a lack of resistance. Fear likewise is a circumstance the undeveloped soul seeks to avoid. Violence and its terrifying aftermath, of course, is the most effective cowing agent of all.

So it is under the rule of ISIS within the bounds of its miserable territory today. It is well to remember the laws of human nature are as much in effect in this country as they are in the Near East.

We enshrine and protect freedom of religion in our Constitution. Such recognition resulted to ensure the freedom from oppression for the devout and conscientious. Islam of the modernistic, reformed variety—the sort content to reside in the front half of the Qur’an as encountered in the Balkans—seeks only to worship the God of Abraham after the prompting of the Spirit as do their brother Jews and Christians. Such folk choose love over hate and indifference, and bother no one as a result.

Islam metastasized is an altogether different entity. There, civilized harmony is antithetical to the later verses of Muhammadan scripture they embrace, in which adherents are instructed to accept the latter of contradictory guidance. Those are the chapters, which encourage terror and subjugation, making the global war between twenty-first and seventh-century philosophies what it is.

Such can no longer be tolerated under the banner of ‘freedom of religion.’ As the social media meme points out, if your religion requires you to kill me to get to heaven, I don’t need to tolerate that. Assigning constitutional protection to the polar opposite of Americanism and an ideology of conquest is beyond foolish; it is self-destructive.

Islam, particularly in Wahhabism, cannot be considered only another quaint religious tradition safe for the imagined secular humanist to dismiss and ignore. It engenders, as Winston Churchill observed, a distinct fanaticism as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog. Past a certain point, the two afflictions have only a singular and identical course of effective treatment.

Anna Erishkigal’s characters, particularly her women, you may rest assured become masters of addressing this condition in their enemies. We might contend with Eisa McCarthy’s premise that “Allah has no sons, only daughters,” but in the end we cheer the courage that is her byproduct of faith. These contests, as they have throughout history, retain a significance beyond the contexts of their actors. There are lessons there, unseen if unsought, God-placed for those who will.

Choose to love, -DA

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NANOWRIMO, or Why You’ve Not Seen Your Writer Friend

The hammering sound you hear is the pounding of keys since the midnight hour of November 1, 2015. It’s National Novel Writing Month: NANOWRIMO, or simply NANO. The goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words minimum during the next 30 days, and that’s a notable accomplishment for anyone with any semblance of a life.

NANO sets a number of good habits. It practically disallows “pantsing,” for one thing. Most participants will spend October, at least, preparing an outline for their work. Personally, I can’t imagine writing any other way. There is plenty of opportunity in even an extensive outline for spontaneous creativity to occur. One must know where one is and where one is going, otherwise one does not journey, but wanders. There’s little enough time in life for purposeful work, much less meandering around the rim of an unfillable plot hole.

The contest enforces writing discipline, and discipline is a good thing. Commitment is a wonderful virtue. The problem with a rigid allocation of time to given activity is the writer missing other, essential aspects of his or her life. Those moments are not only irreplaceable, but go into making writers who they are. In essence, one’s life is what fuels writing a worthwhile piece in the first place.

When I was working on my first novel, The Anvil of the Craftsman, G. Gordon Kitty would come into the den and tap my leg to come sit with him on the Big Red Chair across from the fireplace. Those were special moments, but I often put him off for the sake of my word count. I didn’t know then it would be the last year of his life. Believe me when I say you don’t want to know how such a mistake feels.

Writers generally are artists. Largely they are insecure, obsessed idealists waging a battle where they lead a contingent of How Things Should Be while surrounded by the dark host of How Things Are. Like hard work and commitment, passion and idealism are generally good things, depending on the validity of one’s perspective and values. But all of those virtues, left to grow unrestrained, promote obsession … and that is less than healthy.

No one wants to hear the likelihood of one’s great effort going to waste, but no endeavor offers a better chance of just that than writing fiction. To have produced a solid novel is something of which one can and should be proud. Doing so can and has led to a great deal of acclaim and success, but those wonder stories are the experiences of outliers. So are the accounts of lottery winners, and both industries count on the Skinnerian appeal of intermittent reward aided by publicity. Don’t be afraid to dream, but accept that the world loves the taste of a really sweet one.

In the end, I can’t help but think that NANO does more harm than good. It doesn’t matter if your novel reaches The End by November 30. It matters a great deal if it is a worthwhile project, if it adds satisfaction to your life in having produced the thing, and that it will stay with your readers as you and they go forward together.

This where where the magic in writing is found, not in stress and deadlines and setting oneself up to fail through setting an artificial timeframe defining victory or defeat. The end product is the thing, and whether it arrives n November or December or next year matters not at all. These works will outlast us. I encourage you to give yours its due.

It’s better to write well than quickly. It’s essential to let the work cool and return for second and subsequent drafts. It should be mandatory that it be edited by a set of eyes other than your own and proofread by a third party who has not been part of production prior to that point.

But NANOWRIMO can be where all that starts. If you’ve prepared well and so choose, I wish you good luck. If you’ve attended your other duties, responsibilities, and all else life offers you first, you should be writing.

Choose to Love, -DA

*****

OLSJ_225x337DSIn production news, Boone’s third, One Last Scent of Jasmine, has passed midpoint in primary editing and remains on schedule to appear this winter. My first, The Anvil of the Craftsman, recently garnered five-star review No.100. If you’ve not had a look at the Revised and Expanded Edition, I hope you’ll take time to enjoy the Bonus Chapter. Anvil remains a free download where possible, and inexpensive as allowed everywhere else.

Characters in a Godless Universe

Before writing, one reads first, of course. After writing and further developing the skills needed to do it well, however, reading is never quite the same. That epiphany is a seed of thought especially relating to what I write, which is fiction from the perspective of a conservative and a Christian.

Characters I encounter in the writing of others—nearly universally now—seem to have little regard for the spiritual aspects of their existence. Plot lines develop, conflict is engaged, and crescendos pass … often without any soul-searching, spark of enlightenment, or flashes of revelation in the minds of the people with whom we travel through their story. The result can be constructed as well as fiction can get, be presented in flawless elegance, and yet for me is one notch away from truly satisfying … because an element of completeness is missing.

When someone asks what my fiction is “about,” the short answer is: “people, and the perspectives that guide their decisions.” Conflict, challenge, adventure and romance are all elements as well, but as my character Jon Anthony says, some questions are essential. This means we will all answer them in some fashion, whether or not the subject is ever intentionally addressed.

Whether one proceeds from a faith-based perspective is one of those attributes. We are all encouraged in polite company to avoid talking about the subject, along with politics, and that reserve spills into the world of literature as well. I cannot help but think it is as limiting there as it is elsewhere in life. In writing Political Fiction, I cannot avoid the latter. As a Christian, I have a Commission to engage in the former … come what may.

In Stephen King’s novel The Langoliers, the test of dimensional validity is the “rightness” in the taste of foods and vitality of materials for the passengers of an aircraft “out of synch.” So, in a way, is  reading the works constructed out of a secular perspective.

Certainly, judging from the state of the world, too many and an increasing number of people are living their lives in that same, flat, unfulfilled state King described. Blaise Pascal, in his Pensees, wrote:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

The results in fiction and in life are the same. Absent a foundational quickening, no recovery can be made without addressing one’s most fundamental deficit. As Christians, it remains our burden to watch and pray and counsel where we can. In fiction, I present the internal struggles and dialogues that steer a soul on a bearing toward Home. That likely is the primary distinction between my fiction and the majority of authors in my genre.

We need a nation and a world revived in Spirit through valid faith, and thus given to acts of love rather than self-indulgence. I believe that we need novels written just that way as well. Toward that end, we here at Single Candle Press will continue to do what we can.

*****

In TBP112x169production news, May promises to see Novel6/Boone2 The Bonus Pool complete primary editing and the title move into pre-publication on a schedule for release next month (June 2015). Boone’s first, Absinthe and Chocolate, is an absolute prerequisite to her latest novel.

Doctor Rebecca Boone Hildebrandt returns in style. The Bonus Pool, as did the second novel of Jon’s Trilogy, brings together characters and set pieces established in the introductory volume into a storyline and presentation so energetic and excellent that we truly feel it shakes the blessed earth.

You will not want to put this one off, people. My advice is: get started now. Boone’s File Book One, Absinthe and Chocolate, is available now where your ebooks are sold and linked on the sidebar.

Choose to Love, -DA

Entry Points

Discoverability is one key to the success of an independent author. As I plead in the end matter of every novel, we have no publicity department or promotional budget outside of our own efforts.

The content edit of Novel5/ Boone1, Absinthe and Chocolate, is nearing completion. The first title of my third series Boone’s File looms larger on the horizon every day toward a projected release this summer. Three series will be the eventual result, God willing. All, I confess. are set in the same universe as the novel that started things off, The Anvil of the Craftsman.

Jon’s Trilogy, Sean’s File, and Boone’s File share to the extent possible a familiar cast of characters. It seemed to be the thing to do, and one does not meet people like these every day. The engaging spark of General Peter McAllen, the stoic bad-assery of Daniel Sean Ritter, and even the somewhat cynical and perpetual administrative confusion of Bernie Schuster now have become part of the landscape. I don’t think I could let any of them go if I tried.

With three series, new readers will have three places to start: whether with Anvil, my free offering, Operation Naji—which is Ritter’s back story—or with Boone’s debut in Absinthe. Three routes into my world will hopefully allow me show to show the maximum number of literary guests around for a while… for as long as I write, actually.

These novels are entry points, and I appreciate the utility of multiple chances to gain an audience for what I have to say. Whether I’m read in chronological order or by date of publication, I want the experience to be the same: satisfying enough to encourage my audience to tell many others.

I still, and always shall, pursue that happily viral popularity that best-quality writing can provoke. Without readers, as I’ve said before, an author’s voice is only imagination, and they mean the world to me. I thought I was good with words until it came time to tell you all how much.

Choose to Love, -DA

Vince Flynn—Remembered

Writers of Political Fiction are flying their colors at half-staff this week as a memorial to Vince Flynn, author of a dynamic series of novels that continue to hold the attention of his fan base. His titles are familiar here, as they were always and doubtless will continue to be constant occupants in the top listings of the genre we share.

Vince Flynn—whose journey, by the way, began with self-publishing—pleased his audience. His achievement is reflected in his rankings in Amazon Best Sellers, but just as significant and more laudable is his residence in Amazon Top Rated. As of this writing, Mr. Flynn’s titles occupy seven of the Top Twenty slots by customer ranking.

It is good writing that will be remembered. Literature endures past the span of its author. Writing well grants a legacy of remembrance that travels past the point in time where one’s children will grow old and pass on in their own journey. There is a secret promise in the crafting of words … one that offers an opportunity to endure. Thoughts frozen in time by transcription carry forward the mind of their author, and hold a chance for that much immortality at least. We still read Homer nearly three millennia later, and we do so because he chose to write.

Vince Flynn did so as well, and his results speak for themselves. Congratulations, sir. You used what time you were granted to its best effect, which is as much as any of us can hope to do.

Choose to Love, -DA