Justum et tenacem, propositi virum

“A just man, firm in purpose.” – Horace

Last week my husband brought home from the public library a graphic novel version of The Count of Monte Cristo, originally written by Alexandre Dumas. I picked it up, started flipping through it, and realized that although I have read this book before and remembered the plot in general terms I could not even remember the names of the characters. So yesterday I decided to download a free Kindle version and read it again. Right now I am about halfway through it.

I am sure that when I first read the novel, I did not fully appreciate all of the nuances therein, since I believe that at the time I was still a high school student in the state of Teenage Angst. Naturally, I focused on different aspects of the novel then and viewed it through the sophomoric lens of my own limited experiences. I skipped over the parts and details that I didn’t understand, such as references to French history and its notable figures, culture and quotations from the classics. I was reading the book for fun instead of explicating it for class, after all, so I was more interested in what happened to the characters and the overarching theme of the story than I was in “all that other scholarly minutiae.”

At the time, I did not have convenient means at hand for translating phrases rendered in language foreign to me or immediately researching the names dropped in the narrative. For example: What the heck does this French “ma foi” phrase mean that keeps popping up in the dialogue? (Answer: It’s an interjection that translates to “my faith!” and serves the same purpose as saying “my goodness!” “well!” or “indeed!” would in English.)

Praise be to God for the existence of Google and the invention of touch screens!

Much like the double-edged sword, modern technology can be a wonderful blessing as well as a pernicious curse to humankind.

In any event, in reading the Count of Monte Cristo again I am noticing details in the narrative that as a moon-eyed adolescent I previously glossed over. For example, the scene where King Louis XVIII is reading a poem by Horace, which is in Latin. The king occasionally quotes snippets from this piece of classical literature while his courtiers are trying to convince him of a conspiracy staged by the Bonapartists. One of these Latin phrases struck me as particularly significant after I looked it up: justum et tenacem propositi virum. (In English: the just man, firm of purpose.) This is part of a larger exposition that I feel is pertinent:

“The just man, firm of purpose cannot be shaken in his rocklike soul, by the heat of fellow citizens clamouring for what is wrong, nor by the presence of a threatening tyrant.”

What does it mean to be a “just” man? What did Horace mean by it, and for what reason did Dumas include this excerpt? At first glance, this phrase appears to describe the protagonist Edmond Dantes because it resonates so strongly with his activities; I say “appears” because on a deeper level I feel that it is also somewhat ironic. Edmond Dantes is “rocklike” and “firm of purpose” in seeking vengeance on those who have so cruelly wronged him out of base envy and avarice. True, he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused. He was wrongfully imprisoned for over fourteen years, his hopes and dreams for marriage with Mercedes and a career as a ship captain utterly devastated.

In our heart of hearts, don’t we in 2019 still sympathize with Edmond wanting to strike back at his oppressors? We would wish to do the same as he did if we had the means and the motive. Nowadays we say: “Yes, revenge is bad for you, blah blah blah,” and pay lip-service to this sentiment, but in that culture it was expected and a matter of honor that one would seek vengeance for wrongs done to oneself or to those under one’s protection.

The Count of Monte Cristo certainly raises an interesting question: if we had vast wealth of a hidden treasure at our disposal, how would we use it? We might have these grand and altruistic plans to be magnanimous to the less fortunate, but dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover the impulses of the sinful nature – to punish our persecutors in a way that we feel suits the crime.

Because it is Holy Week, in reading of Edmond’s plight I was struck by an odd parallel to Jesus Christ’s trial and wrongful execution. There two similarities: both are “just” – innocent of any crime – and both are firm in purpose. However, in practice the two men are complete opposites.

For the sake of argument, you could claim that Edmond Dantes is “just” because he is not guilty of the charge of which he is accused: treason. In Old Testament fashion, Edmond seeks an eye for an eye when he escapes the Chateau d’If. By law, the guilty should be punished for their crimes. However, Edmond feels that the legal system falls short and cannot touch his enemies, so he takes the role of judge, jury and executioner upon himself. He is consumed by his desire for revenge and determined not to waver from the path he has chosen. But I have to wonder: is dedicating one’s life to the pursuit of revenge the action of a truly “just” man?

And by the end of the book, did Edmond remain firm in his purpose to avenge himself, or would human mercy sway his “rocklike” resolve?

Jesus Christ was also a just man, firm of purpose. He was not shaken from his resolve to complete his mission of mercy – the very antithesis of vengeance. By rights, we as rebellious sinners all deserve to suffer God’s eternal wrath. That would have been justice. But Jesus was punished in our place. No human being could have predicted that. One would expect an angry God to smite his enemies for daring to lay hands on him. Just as Edmond was wrongfully incarcerated, Christ did not deserve to suffer and die on the cross. But He stayed the course, endured the agony, and emerged victorious. A truly just man, truly firm in His purpose.

Happy Easter everyone…or as they would say on Tehara: have a blessed Resurrection Festival.

In Springtime the Cycle is Renewed

Because I started this blog with my writing “journey” in mind, I suppose I ought to say something about it. The series of novels that I am working on is called the Cycle of Tehara (hence the name of this blog.) Within the Cycle of Tehara are several…ish story arcs. Sub-series, if you will. The story arc that I am currently working on is called the Wyldling series. Not particularly clever, but since I haven’t actually published yet I still have time to think of a better name than “series.”

Originally, my magnum opus was a single novel whimsically and incongruously entitled The Grand Illusion (yes, in honor of the song of the same name by Styx) that I began crafting at the tender age of 13. It turns out the joke was on me; I should have called it the Grand Delusion of a Teenage Girl Writing the World’s Longest Novel. Needless to say, the title I had given it had very little to do with the content of the novel, and nothing in common with the Styx song besides the title. The story itself has gone through multiple versions, revisions and expansions since I had the weird dream that spawned it in middle school.

A few months ago, I realized that The Grand Illusion was shaping up to be a grand behemoth of a tome twice as long as Stephen King’s It and The Stand combined. Nobody is going to read a single book so huge it could be used as a doorstop. I was afraid my epic novel – growing longer and longer every year – would be mistaken for the Encyclopedia Bore-tannica or something of that sort. I am no Leo Tolstoy after all. I am not even a Stephen King (wow, can that man churn out books!) So in the past year, I thought that maybe a trilogy would be a better idea. The 3 books into which I chopped up The Grand Illusion were to be called Wyldling Snare, Wyldling Trials, and Wyldling Deliverance. It turns out those three books were probably still too long for the audience I had in mind for them; the story is told from the point of view of 15/16 year olds, so it naturally follows that teenagers and young adults should be my target audience – right?

Currently, the Wyldling Series as I envision it is most likely going to be 5 or 6 books. The major plot points are mapped out for the entire story arc, but I feel that the novel previously known as The Grand Illusion needs a lot of reworking. As I’ve gained life experience and grown as a person, so has my novel. A woman in her fourth decade views things much differently than a 15 year old girl – or at least she should.

Viewed through the lens of the adult that I had become, my characters were behaving in ways that was ridiculous and unrealistic. Even in a fantasy story, certain things have to make sense – like, why is this teenager allowed to venture into forbidden, dangerous territory? Well, I decided that said teenager wasn’t allowed to do this at all, but that in his own mind he had compelling reasons for doing so, even if he was wrong to disobey and suffered the consequences. Besides all that, the protagonist was acting more like a whiny, angsty teenage girl than the battle-trained youth that he was destined to be.

I definitely felt that I needed to develop the villains into more believable characters, too. There had to be feasible motivations for their actions, other than “I’m crazy evil and I want to take over the world, mwahahaha!” or “Hello, I’m a bloodthirsty monster who wants revenge for some random insult the protagonist said to me off-screen.” Villains have to have some redeemable qualities, or at least be relatable as human beings – even if some of them actually are psychopaths and megalomaniacs. Perhaps some of them are merely going along to get along while others have been duped or trapped into following a certain path.

The Wyldling Series features six to eight individual villains/antagonists – depending on how one defines the term – but only five of them appear for significant amounts of time. Two or maybe three of them are killed off by the end of the series – I’m still trying to decide. One of the main villains is eventually “redeemed” and joins the ranks of the “good guys” by the end of the series. Another villain is not identified as such and remains a mystery until a future story arc.

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. The whole journey is a little confusing to me, too.

I’m still working on the details, and as you know, the devil dwells therein.

God bless, and have a marvelous Holy Week.

Winter, begone with you! Spring is coming! Soon, this iris I planted last year will emerge from the soil…
Could it be that my novel shall also blossom anew?

The Journey Begins

Thanks for visiting!

Spring time brings with it new growth, so I though this would be the perfect time to begin a blog. I plan on becoming a published author, and I have been told that having a website and a blog is something that successful authors do. So…here we are.

This is a writer’s blog, so there will definitely be updates about progress on the novels and other projects that I am working on. I might even post my amateurish character sketches. However, I also plan to mention other things, too. These things might include my family, my religious beliefs, events that I’ve attended, and other assorted life adventures.

My intention is to avoid any political ranting and raving, but I might periodically post my own opinions about relevant news that I have heard and social topics that I touch upon in my novels. My goal is to be as inoffensive as possible. I apologize in advance if something I post offends you. Please let me know if this is the case. Communication goes both ways, after all.

You will most likely see quotes from the Bible and my comments on them, so be prepared for that, as well.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. — Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

I thought that one was kind of appropriate, given that I am embarking on a new adventure. Thank you, God, for my new heart. I desperately needed one.

All righty then. Let us all blast off into space, leaving the solar system via our own personal wormhole, passing stars and strange planets (like the ones I drew in MS Paint, below). Let us begin our journey to Tehara, a planet on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy that bears an uncanny resemblance to the planet Earth…