Tag Archives: history

First Made Proud

It’s a sad fact that the realm of politics is as close to religion as the godless can manage. It never really occurred to me to write any other sort of novel, as the genre of political fiction afforded plenty of opportunity to best say what compelled close to a million-and-a-half words. The essential themes therein are what have allowed my storytelling to remain relevant to the point that, ten years on, my first novel remains visible in the stack of its genre on the free side of major venues where e-books come alive.

Pride. Wisdom. Courage. Cowardice. Love. Hate. Indifference. Fiction is effective only when it is relevant to the real world. One could not be transported otherwise, and immersion is the kick that keeps a reader coming back for more.

The first one’s free, kid. Actually the first three. But I digress.

Effective novels compel continued attention, and those stories arise from conflict. There is a cosmic struggle in human nature between basic morality, the edified character that values humility over pride, and empathy above predation. The base elements of deficient humanity are largely characterized by a sense of entitlement to impose one’s will. Pride may target individuals, hierarchies, paradigms, and the tenets of natural law itself.

Pride stops only when stopped, whether by intervening strength of character or the inevitable consequences defining The Way Things Are, as current events often show.

And current events are a show, all right. One featuring copious amounts of often airborne dung. The collision of thesis and antithesis produce the synthesis of a good historical lesson or a satisfying novel’s payout as does the chemistry producing gunpowder from blending less volatile materials. That said, more than once I have looked at headlines rising out of current events and thought, “The Editress would make me tone this story line down for the sake of plausibility.”

Pride is an epidemic in today’s society, and doesn’t give two morning grunts about wisdom, much less about faith. Pride drowns out the lessons of past lives in a cacophony of self-congratulatory accolades, and where wisdom watches and listens carefully, hubris wishes to speak instead. It’s driven by the need to be heard and obeyed, a weakness manifesting in insatiable control issues. Pride can find its own god in the nearest mirror. People stricken with pride, as invariably are my antagonists, cause most of the problems in the world.

The prideful couldn’t conjure faith if they tried. It is a worse situation than ignorance. They have been abandoned to themselves, and the faith not of ourselves preserving us is denied them. They been left to their own minds, and may God some day have mercy on their souls as He has on ours.

Where we have faith, hope, and love, they have baiting, dross, and hubris. They troll while we attempt to edify. We build, and they burn. We are mindful of eternity, and they struggle on against deception screaming that the physical plane and our present lives are all that is.

We’ve been told otherwise, and so have they. By the grace of God we listened, and that makes all the difference in eternity.

The current political climate is one giving the political Left all the rope it need to hang itself, and that scaffold is rising like an ideological Tower of Babel. More of their own number than ever are walking away, and the defections will render unsustainable any moral authority by which they hope to operate. The non-Western world, China, Russia, Persia, and Islam, have long political memories, unlike the West and the U.S. in particular. They are watching, with an interest that should make your blood run cold, as our political extremists debase themselves drunk with perceived power. Their buzz is actually death throes from the political establishment.

“You’re wrong. They’re stronger than ever.” I was told that in an online forum by a hopeless contrarian who couldn’t force himself to absorb the points I’m trying to bring across now.

Hopelessness is another lie of the enemy. You know who was strong in 1939? Hitler. Six years later, his thousand-year Reich has been flattened by the Hammer of God for daring to strike the Almighty’s chosen people.

Pride did that. Pride will wreak similar havoc on overreach and arrogance wherever it overtakes the assumptive and unmindful. These ash layers of history don’t striate themselves, and today Adolf Hitler’s remains nourish the base soil of some parking lot in Berlin.

Overreach is repulsive, because no one likes a loser. And the more extreme one’s folly, the greater number will see what’s coming prior to the victim of his own self-wrought circumstances.

The appreciation of freedom, as a result, is breaking out like a virus. Winter gives way to spring as a chill waiting to abate. The sun is on its way.

I try to not make these columns a sermon, but without testimony the soul of a believer is barren. Without something to say, fiction is flat and uninteresting as distilled water. Without a spiritual journey, a character in fiction or real life is less embraceable than otherwise would be.

Life gives one the choice between hope and fear, and the delivery from fear is the reason Christ appeared in our own historical epoch to be documented by the very ones to whom he was delivered to be crucified in our place. Hope in any circumstance arises just as He did if we remember this.

A century ago, people my age had been born during the Civil War, and had lived the time of westward expansion that followed to the first Great War prideful, as opposed to rational, nationalism wrought. They were, as we are now, strung between two times, trying to piece together the mysteries of how men and nations ought to order the world.

Pride and faith were in conflict then as well. Some would listen and others race ahead in blind ambition. These things have all happened before.

The basis of character is the realization that Emmanuel—God With Us—is an ongoing commitment on His part. We are not alone in this unless we close that door ourselves. The great unseen host of witnesses on our every side are whispering their advice as loudly as allowed while He tarries, not willing that any of us should be lost.

Be one of those who ‘ll absorb the lessons to be had in the last chapter. You’ll find, as often happened to me, that in fact the story doesn’t end there at all.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, the Editress continues progress, now one-eighth through her final editing in Ritter’s sixth and concluding novel, and one marking his return to present-day Bosnia in ‘Sister’s Shadow.’ Look for it at the end of summer, should God be willing for us to see a fifteenth title through.

From China, through Rome, to Hope

Writers are readers first and forever. Once we appreciate the mind-to-mind transmission of ideas and scenes as a craft, words take hold of us. Afterward, it’s our turn to draw from the inkwell and take up our own purpose. What results is a snapshot of sorts, at times representing very well its author’s essence, as preserved through transcription.

Lately, I’ve been working my way through Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, an emperor of Rome in the second century following the birth of Christ. Not an undertaking for the easily distracted or weak-willed, these twelve Books comprise the man’s personal notes, set down for no one but himself. In this they are similar to George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, composed as a means of self-edification.

The nature of truth being what it is, the date of a valid premise is irrelevant. What is, in a broad enough sense, always has been and ever shall be. Yet today, we may reliably draw on the prim, intellectual propriety of Washington, the Stoic observations of Aurelius, and the selfless clarity of Lao Tzu, whose Tao Te Ching predated them all.

The study of history, apart from the rote memorization of timelines, is also a quest for past perspective. That, if you’ve not noticed, is a factor powering my fiction: the deep points of view relating the personal factors driving its characters—good, evil, strong, and unenduring—to act as they do.

It is something more than an arbitrary delineation dividing history in the period before the birth of Jesus and the epoch Anno Domini. Regardless of any secular designation as Before Common Era or CE, the point of demarcation is the same. To a lesser extent, the line of time in the ebb and flow of cultures, viewed as history, will be reflected in the microcosm of our personal experience. Each of us will have our predating, transformative, and later periods.

Washington, of course, wrote in the context of a Christian culture, one whose eventual adoption of our founding documents acknowledged rights given universally and an essential dependence on blessings bestowed to the reverent. Aurelius worked at the dawn of the Church and from the perspective of a pagan and Stoic, though his text alternates between poly- and monotheistic language. Lao Tzu penned his eighty-one chapters wholly in his own pre-revelation context and more than two thousand years ago.

I was struck almost immediately by the similarity between Lao Tzu and Aurelius. Both depended on naturalistic observation in a moral presentation of natural laws. Likewise marked by a serene acceptance of the overall state of affairs, this is presented as one best lived within rather than striven against. Self recedes in such philosophy as perspective broadens. Each of these wise men, however, reached the limit of their individual vision. Though the What, Where, and When of their reporting is valid, it is also limited in supplying the Why.

Why is an important component of understanding, as it aids repeatability, which in turn helps assure a given lesson will be passed along. Why helps define the observations of validity resulting in the universal canon of natural law.

Why is also the reason we divide history at the point of the appearance of Christ. Without His mission to validate its prophecies, the testament of Judaism would have faded alongside the competing sects of the time in which it flourished, crumpling into the sands of history with the ruins of its Temple. Because He arrived, we can assign rational hope to scriptural promises yet to be fulfilled. In portraying Why on Calvary, He allowed us to assume our place in everything going on, just as Christ exemplified and proved a sure hope through demonstrating the Resurrection.

Absent this resultant Christian assurance, the benefits of anticipation are lost for the faithless. Life fades into nothingness with each year, day, hour and moment of time. Standards of behavior become relative without guiding moral absolutes, and wandering follows to varying ends.

Moral strength isn’t enough. Lao, once his calligraphy brush dried, rode into the desert to die, sick at heart of the ways of men. Aurelius found his end disappointed in a son whose upbringing failed to reflect in its results. Both were denied a sufficiently broad vision to bestow hope, yet allowed wisdom enough for their observations to endure through many centuries. To what end we can debate without knowing, but not without something to which we might, in our present era, hold onto.

God, in His essence as embodied in the mission of Christ, has an inclusive plan for those receptive to wisdom. His equations balance our inadequacy with overwhelming sufficiency in our favor, somewhere, I need to believe, past legalistic boundaries and strictures set in limited understanding. The brightest of us see only, as Paul said, through a mirror darkly, on a path toward clarity as starkly terrifying or joyously fulfilling as His just judgment or coverage in grace might decree.

Such questions on the way from here to there remain worthy of consideration. Truth remains what it is, now as in times past: a treasure sought by the living.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, my ninth novel and Boone’s fourth, now approaching the three-quarters mark in primary editing, continues toward an early summer release. We remain optimistic this will occur in June, but also are determined to hold off until it’s ready, and without applying arbitrary deadlines. You should expect a read worth the wait, once the second half of Boone’s File launches with Meat for the Lion.

Sean’s File: King of a Lesser Hill

Thinking must precede writing done well. I have been accused of doing too much of the former and not enough of the latter, though in my mind things have settled out just as intended on a higher level. Writers, along with everyone inspired, recognize the experience of being set to a preordained purpose. So it is here at Single Candle Press approaching September 24, 2016. The date will be the official release of Novel8/Sean3, King of a Lesser Hill.

KLH225x337DSSean’s third is set in 1995, specifically the turbulent time of the Bosnian Civil War immediately prior to the lifting of the siege of Sarajevo. This intermediate title in Sean’s File is another look at the making of the man who has become for many their favorite of my characters. The Daniel Sean Ritter we met under one of his many pseudonyms in my debut novel—quiet, unassuming, settled in the philosophy supporting his duty, and very deadly—appeared after living twenty years of a serviceman’s life. I felt compelled from the beginning to discover the rest of his story.

Operation Naji and Romeo Down: A Short Story started that, and his third title fills in more blanks. His time line designated the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a waypoint. Little did I know how researching Lesser Hill would affect me. KLH will publish with a trigger warning, my first to do so:

*This novel portrays acts of atrocity during the Bosnian Civil War of the 1990s. Though presented with sensitivity, some scenes might prove disturbing to survivors of conflict and/or violence against women.

The media called it ethnic cleansing, which is a sanitizing phrase for the worst of what opposed demographics of our species choose to do to each other. It is difficult to see good people suffer. It’s a personal challenge to write, and might be more than some care to read. But such things happen in life, as do the violence, profanities, and sexual situations which have caused some readers problems in my fiction.

Some react with avoidance, others with criticism. The folk I hope can appreciate what I am doing are ones who can encounter such themes without shying away. Lessons as provided only by a story from trying times provide the worthwhile payload for Lesser Hill.

Ritter’s novels, like Jon Anthony’s, are about the people he encounters as much as they are about the man himself. Terrence Bain Bradley, a fixture in my Boone’s File novels, appears here in his capacity as a young CIA analyst. Likewise, you will meet fledgling Bosnian journalist Lucia Dorotea Crnjak, whose efforts at maintaining her written accounts give us deep insight into her bright, brave soul.

“There must be some difference between what they are and what we become, or it no longer matters who wins,” Luci observes. The events portrayed in my fiction are a means to an end, which is the small goal of going forward with my readers from then on. Conflict is a vital element of fiction done well, and a story’s antagonists need to contrast through their depravity the virtues one hopes will carry the day. Faith says it is the same everywhere, though sometimes our perspective might not be farsighted enough to provide that assurance. May it be so always.

“I write so that people do not forget what happened,” Luci also says. So do I. King of a Lesser Hill was a tough novel to produce, a challenge to edit, and doubtless will be equally difficult for some to read. But we cannot shy away from observing the ugliness of inhumane choices and be the source of wisdom and means for correction a fallen world needs.

Civilized folk cannot be derelict in their duty to such an extent without enabling insufferable decline. As more people yield ground faith should have them contest, it is occupied by the enemy. The same dynamic occurs in nations, communities, congregations, and individuals.

The fire having consumed so much of 1995 Bosnia could rekindle in the United States of the near future. Absorbing the lesson of the world’s late intervention there is our challenge today as our polarized nation debates its future. It must matter which side wins here also, as it did for Luci and Sean in King of a Lesser Hill. I can only hope you will read the novel and agree.

Choose to love, -DA