Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Most Profound Document Ever Written

I have waited with anticipation for the airing of the History Channel's three-part mini-series, The Sons of Liberty, because the story of the American Revolution is, to me, the greatest underdog story the world has ever known. Since I was a kid in the third grade and had to read Johnny Tremain, I've loved everything to do with the Revolutionary War. It pains me that schools in the U.S. today don't devote more time to teaching students how their country came to be, because, despite all its problems--and there are many--it is still, in its ideal, the greatest experiment in government the world has ever known.

The History Channel admits The Sons of Liberty is a fictionalized accounting of the events that lead to the Revolutionary War, but even for those who know the facts, it is still an enjoyable six hour reminder of our history. Growing up, we always had a framed copy of two documents on the wall: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. My father read both to us in their entirety several times and made sure we knew how important they were to both our country and the world. As the son of Italian immigrants and a World War II veteran, he was fervent in his love for this country, and he wanted to make sure we appreciated the freedoms those brave men and women fought for in our names.

I have never been able to read the Declaration of Independence without choking up. It is, to me, the most profoundly stirring statement of human rights that has ever been written. When one considers the age of the men who penned it and the state of the world in which they lived, one can't help but be in awe of their vision. While most people are familiar with the introduction and preamble to the Declaration, unless you've read the entire thing, you may not know that it is actually a 27-count indictment of King George III.

Fifty-six men from twelve colonies (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware) signed the document, which was, in effect, a declaration of treason in the eyes of the British Crown. They could have been put to death for that alone. Thomas Jefferson (at age 36) wrote the original draft, with help from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and the entire assembly then made minor changes and tweaks before it was approved and signed.

In case you've never read the entire document, or you want to refresh your memory, here is the final transcript of the Declaration of Independence with the 27 indictments numbered:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

1. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
2. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
3. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
4. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
5. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
6. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
7. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
8. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
9. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
10. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
11. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
12. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
13. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
14. For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
15. For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
16. For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
17. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
18. For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
19. For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
20. For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
21. For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
22. For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
23. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
24. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
25. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
26. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
27. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Writing Process

Happy New Year, all. As I look around at what has become unfamiliar surroundings (my last post having been written nearly three and a half months ago), my first instinct is to apologize. But then I ask myself, for what? I never promised to post in any regular manner, and in truth, really had nothing worthwhile to say, so why waste my time or yours?

Over the years, I've read a lot of so-called advice for writers from writers (and others) who consider themselves experts, and I've come to realize something. Just like with everything else in life, all writers work differently. The popular school of thought is that to be a successful writer, you must write every day.


I tried that. While it probably works for most people, and especially if you're a newb who needs the practice, having a one-size-fits-all policy for success in any creative endeavor is just dumb. We're not all the same, and creativity is not like a tap you can turn on or off at will.

At least, not for me. I live with my characters and books inside me all the time, but sometimes they just don't feel like talking. And why should I force them if they have nothing to say?

I look at it this way: In my real life, I have spent years buying and renovating old houses. I do most of the work myself and use salvaged parts whenever necessary. I never have a huge budget for these adventures, but I do usually have some kind of plan or vision for what I want to accomplish. Often I'm so fixated on that vision that I'd rather do nothing at all than compromise on something less than my vision in the name of getting things done.

For instance, in one house, after tearing out the wall between the kitchen and livingroom, I decided I wanted to put a large, solid wood column between the two rooms. I don't know where the desire came from, but nothing else was going to do. And because I couldn't find that mythical column, I lived with a wall of bare studs for nearly two years because I knew if I did something else just to get the job done, I'd never be satisfied with it.

That's how I see my writing. I've rushed to finish books so I could publish, only to later be disappointed with the resulting story, wishing I could go back and rewrite it the way I originally had intended.

Which brings me to now. As I had mentioned in my September post, for the last year I've been busy between the day job and remodeling my latest house, leaving little creative energy to listen to the stories in my head. That was fine for awhile because, as I said, the characters were quiet. And while they flared up a bit a few months back, they just as quickly fell quiet again. However, lately they've started talking more than they have in years, and believe me, with two series and a couple of standalone books running around up there, it can get quite noisy. I revisited each of my in-progress projects (yes, I always have several going at a time), rereading my notes and what I had written so far, in the hopes of pinpointing the one that was making the most noise.

At first I thought it was Laec of the Erebus Files. I even wrote a couple of chapters on Hazard, then put it aside when nothing rang true. Then I read through last year's NaNoWriMo project, Random Trips to Nowhere, and while I enjoyed reading what I had written so far, I had no inspiration on where to take the tale from there.

And that's when the 'Ru started creeping into my subconscious. You'd never know by reading the first book, but the original concept for the series was born from my love of old gothic romantic horror. Since that style of writing has fallen out of favor the past few years in light of newer, shinier vampires, I allowed myself to be swayed by popular opinion. To be honest, by the time the first book was done, I could hardly tell the characters were vampires.

And that makes me sad, because truth be told, I love a good vampire story. The whole reason why I began to write paranormal fiction was because I couldn't find the kind of vampire story I wanted to read. That perfect balance of sexy power, romance, danger, and a reluctant touch of evil. I confess to being smitten even now with Lestat as the greatest hero of the genre.

So I began to revisit my old library of classic vampire paperbacks--Elaine Bergstrom's Austra series, Tanya Huff's Blood series, Fred Saberhagen's Dracula series, and the queen of them all, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (books 1 through 3, though the new Prince Lestat awaits on my Kindle). I reread them all, absorbing that familiar, beloved fascination with the vampire legend.

I'm not going to sit here and try to analyze or justify my vampire addiction. It's quite simply, what I like. Frankly I'm worn out by the badass super demon/vampire/werewhatever heroes that populate the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre these days; the sexless, sword-wielding, tattooed women (and men) in tight leather and looser morals. I miss the romance of the forbidden dark world, and quite frankly, nothing embodies that like a good old-fashioned gothic vampire tale.

That's not saying I'm going to go all Victoria Holt in my next book. Books 2 and 3 of the 'Ru Lexicon trilogy have been plotted out for some time, and while I still want to tell the story I had originally envisioned, I'm just going to add a little old-school flavor to their world. Which means Book 2 will offer a nod to true classic vampirism. The characters have begun to speak to me again, interrupting my dreams and intruding on my sleep. Most of the necessary research  is done, and it's time to start bringing their story to life. If I'm absent for long stretches, know that it's because I'm spending my creative energies there.