Books: Calm Before the Storm

Just re-released in Kindle form:

Calm Before the Storm
by Janice L Dick

Calm Before the Storm (The Storm Series Book 1) by [Janice L. Dick, The Mosaic Collection]If you enjoy historical fiction set in Europe, here’s a compelling story for you that’s well written and well researched. Exciting, at times quite tense, this is the story of a Christian family living through the turbulent times of the Russian Revolution.

In the 1700s Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, invited an number of German religious groups to move in and establish themselves in the fertile farmland of the Ukraine and they were doing well for themselves. The Russian serfs had been freed some time before this story begins, but they received no land or help from their government and had to survive however they could.

As the 1900s began, severe poverty and hunger had made the peasants desperate. The government of Tzar Nicholas was imploding, a political cyclone was stirring, and some of the Russian peasants were starting to look resentfully at the prosperous German communities around them.

The Hildebrandts were one of many families in the prosperous Mennonite communities. Heinrich, the widowed father, sixteen-year-old Katarina, the beautiful fourteen-year old Mika, her mentally unbalanced brother Peter, and the two youngest siblings Anna and Kolya (Nicholai) were enjoying the good life on a beautiful estate, scarcely touched by the winds of change until the Great War started.

Entwined with their story is the experience of Johann Sudermann, hired to tutor the younger children, enthralled by the lovely but super-efficient Mika. Though the Mennonites had been granted exemption from the army when they first settled in Russia, soon after the war begins all conscientious objectors must report to work camps. Johann and many others were sent to the medical corps to care for wounded soldiers however they could. The Russian army was so overwhelmed and under-equipped that defeat was inevitable.

We also get cameos of Johann’s childhood Russian friend, Paul Tekanin, as he goes to St Petersburg and joins the Bolsheviks in their plan to overthrow the Tzar. Excerpts from his life give readers a picture of the deplorable state of affairs in St Petersburg before the Revolution, with the mad monk Rasputin pulling the strings.

I’m impressed with how well the author has researched the historical background for this story and interweaves it with an accurate account of day-to-day life in the Mennonite community at that time. Together with the Hildebrandt family readers can experience the joys of prosperity, the fear of a looming collapse of government, the immediate effects of war, and their faith that God will bring them through, come what may.

The King’s Rousing Speech

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is Abstract in Black & White

I’m not sure exactly how to demonstrate this, so I’ll respond with a bit of whimsy.

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          Image by Felix Mittermeier — Pixabay

The King’s Rousing Address to His Pawns

All right you pawns, listen closely! I am the King. I’m the Leader, Monarch, Head of State, Supreme Ruler and all that. My job is to direct operations here and tell you what to do. Your job is to obey my orders implicitly, never doubting my wisdom. Got that?

I may be limited in my movements, but any remarks about “the lame old King” shall be treated as any other treason. Likewise, though Her Royal Highness the Queen may fly around freely, any comments about her being domineering or solipsistic will be punished. She does her part in the battle and has many captures to her credit.

As we head into the battle your duty is to prepare the way and, whenever necessary, encircle your King. You must be vigilant at all time to protect me from capture, defending me at whatever cost to yourselves. Should this involve the noble act of dying for King and country, fear not. I shall duly reward you with a medal, presented posthumously.

It’s also your duty to defend the Royal Family from any opprobrium on the home front, demonstrating unquestioning loyalty at all times. This is a monarchy, not a democracy — remember that — and critical speech will not be tolerated. Should the town criers report anything uncomplimentary about any member of the Royal Family, the offenders shall be silenced promptly. Should any peasant, or peasants, suggest that your King is conceited or lacking intelligence, or mention that the Queen is chasing after fair knights and bishops, the accusers shall be skewered and thrown to the sea monster in the moat.

Go forth now with the blessing of your King, who’s counting on you to perform your duties with vim and vigor. If any messengers have anything to report about the battle or specific casualties, I shall be in the counting house, counting the national income. Thus shall I do my best to ensure that you all receive your proper wages. Her Royal Highness shall attend to the packing of the royal household, lest a sudden castling prove necessary.

The Signal Flag

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is BEACON

This word makes me think of a short story I could write sometime. The main character will be a young man whose horse stumbles and tosses him, so here he is, following a faint prairie trail one bitterly cold evening. His eyes search the darkness for one glimmer of light, one hope of rescue. He’s very close to giving up and accepting the fate of freezing to death when he sees the far-off glow of a window. A homesteader’s cabin! Shelter and warmth — his only hope! but what kind of people live there? What fate awaits him when he gets there?

Yes, someday I’ll write that tale. 🙂

However, today I’m going to give you another quick story. I read this years ago in the 1972 Friendship Book of Francis Gay and am retelling here in my own words. This doesn’t involve a beacon — at least the rector never intended to display one…

Years ago the rector in a small English town took a notion that it’d make a nice touch for his church if they had a flag — something they could hoist for on special occasions. He shared his idea with his flock one Sunday morning and different ones nodded in agreement.

One elderly woman had a flash of recall: wasn’t there one around her house somewhere? She went home and rummaged through her attic, thinking she may have seen the flag in her father’s old trunk. Ah! Here it was.

She took it to the rector, who laid it out and studied it awhile. The design was nothing he’d ever seen before, but it had a unique, pleasing placement of colours. Sure, why not use it as their banner for special-occasions?

Calling a number of folks to come and see, he attached it to the rope and ran it up the flagpole. Folks nodded. It looked attractive enough…and would be a nice touch for the Feast of Saint Somebody a few weeks hence.

The rector decided to leave the flag up for the day and went in to tea. Early that evening someone knocked at the manse door; the rector opened it and saw a sailor standing there grinning.

“Excuse me, sir,” the sailor began, giving the rector a hearty salute. “I come to see if I could be of some help, seeing you have an emergency.”

The rector was startled. “Emergency? We have no emergency here that I know of.”

“But I’ve just read the signal flag on your church tower, sir. It’s saying that you are in great difficulties and urgently need a pilot.”

Magic

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is MAGIC

This bit of rambling can also be my response to Biff’s Whatnot Wednesday, over at biffsockpow, if he’s doing one this week.

Seeing the word MAGIC made me wonder if it’s related to MAJESTIC, since they sound so much alike. However, Merriam-Webster informs me that they spring from two different roots:

Magic comes to us via French, via Latin, via the Greek magikē, which in turn comes from magos, a sorcerer. This word, of Iranian origin is kin to the old Old Persian maguš which means sorcerer. A well travelled word indeed!
Majesty and Majestic come to us via the French majesté, from Latin majestat-, majestas; akin to Latin major, which means greater.

In case you wanted to know. 😉

Magic is definitely a popular theme in our day. Ancient tales give us to think that wishes might come true through supernatural, reality-defying means. I suppose lotteries cash in on this “Cinderella” dream, the magical win which makes a person suddenly rich enough to afford anything they wish.

Fairy tales and stories of magic can be an amusement for youngsters; to some extent they can be used to portray the great conflicts of life, good versus evil. The triumph of love and kindness over selfishness and cruelty. I believe C S Lewis created his Chronicles of Narnia with this in mind, showing Jesus as represented by the all-knowing, all-wise, just but gentle Aslan.

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Pixabay

Children also need to understand that, in real life, things aren’t going to get done by magic. To raise happy, well adjust children, parents need to help them grasp reality as it is and deal with it as it stands. Things like math and spelling proficiency or an orderly workspace aren’t going to fall from a twinkling fairy wand; the child must work at them. Victory may involve a constant battle, but there’s “joy in the journey.”

Being watched in my early years by babysitters with no personal investment in my future, I’ve had to learn some of this the hard way myself. No sudden windfall from a long-lost uncle to fill our bank account; no little elves sneak in at night and clean up my kitchen for me. 😉

I remember my father years ago making a comment about prayer in the same sense. We were talking about prayer, how God hears and answers prayer, and great things being accomplished through prayer. Then he looked around and said, “That may be, but prayer isn’t going to get this floor washed. I’d better get at it.”

He was being flippant, but he had a point. Some things happen, people meet “coincidentally”, dangers are avoided by a few minutes, answers to a problem pop into our heads, in quite miraculous ways through divine intervention. But, as my Dad said, the basic work of life we usually have to deal with ourselves.

Writing Prompts

Good morning everyone! Lovely sunshine today…when I’d rather see rain. How’s that for perversity? But we did get a sprinkle yesterday and it froze last night, so there’s front on the grass this morning.

The cats have already gone in and out, in and out, in and out. A very short train has just chugged by on the track not far from our yard, headed south with a dozen or so empty gravel-hauling cars. I’m not sure where the gravel comes from, but they use it to build and maintain track north of us.

I learned a few things about my writing, and about you, dear readers, when I did a search for my most popular blog posts two days ago. One of the rules of the Mystery Blogger Award as to list your ten most popular posts and I discovered that my MOST-VIEWED post of all time was this one:
WRITING PROMPT SOURCES

I wrote this shortly after WordPress discontinued their Daily Prompt. Since I was never very devoted to following the Daily Prompt, I haven’t really missed it, plus other sites have stepped in to fill the gap. So I think it’s time I update my data, for those who are interested in writing prompts.

If you’re looking for a daily prompt WORD, check out the following:
RAGTAG Community
Word of the Day
Fandango’s FOWC
Your Daily Word Prompt

The following sites offer a weekly photo prompt, and would welcome new contributors:
What Pegman Saw
What Do You See
Friday Fictioneers
Crispina’s Crimson Challenge

The 50 Word Thursdays prompt, cohosted by Kristian and the Haunted Wordsmith, offers both a photo and a line you’re supposed to use somewhere in your story, plus the story is to be written in multiples of 50 words.

And  Sammi Cox offers a weekend writing prompt. She gives participants a WORD, plus a specific word-limit. This week it’s 77; last week it was 47.

I’m sure there are more but I think I’ve put enough links in this post. If you’re looking for ideas and topics, the sites I’ve listed could keep you writing all week long. 🙂