Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Heroes! Part 1

Greetings, fellow Castaways.

First off, if you haven't signed up to follow the blog, feel free to join up! I'll try not to bore you too much.

This week, the concept for discussion is one that comes up once in a while when a reader asks me about my series, and that is the question of what makes a hero. It's a good question, because, after all, every good story has a hero, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbits to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, to Robert A. Heinlein's Friday, to the Brave Little Toaster and the Beaudelaire Orphans.

So let's look at how we define the term, with a few examples, and why we see them as heroes, from the strictly obvious point of view of the kid who should have paid more attention in English Class. If anyone of you have any Creative Writing background in College or what have you, feel free to jump into the discussion (plenty of room for comments at the end).

The first and most obvious Hero Type is the Warrior.

Here we have a classic example. St. George, our knight in shining armor, rides in to rescue the virgin from the horrible, fire-breathing dragon. Today, our warriors are still seen as heroes, and rightly so.

These photo shows another take on the warrior image of heroism. Though no less heroes than the previous example, these men's faces show the horrible cost incurred on the title. They were Marines on Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest and hard-fought battles of World War II. But even among this type, there are several sub-types of Hero, from those who signed up willingly, to the draftee just trying to stay alive long enough to get back home. But the significance of the title of Hero is not diminished by circumstances.

I've said once that Heroes are not born as extraordinary people; rather they are ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances, just doing what needs to be done. And I could still say that, to an extent, that holds true.

I was fifteen years old, a member of my local Sheriff's cadet post. The court pulled some strings to get me in, even though I was technically too young. It seems the judge thought I just needed something to keep me busy, something more constructive than the "hobbies" that had me standing in front of him. So take it from me, I was no hero at fifteen. But my story continues:

Part of my involvement was a 40-hour First Aid course that was the most thorough training I'd ever seen, and that included my instructor training in Battlefield Aid in the Air Force (I was my squadron's instructor for three years, but that's a different story).

I was at a family party with my father and brother, standing in the back yard of one of Dad's friends, when a crash and scream came from the house. Out the back door came the young son of the host, running and screaming, holding one arm out in front of him. That arm was a shredded wreck of flesh streaming blood across his lawn (he'd put it through a plate glass window, with predictable results). That first aid training kicked in automatically, and I grabbed him. I was terrified when I saw the damage to his arm, but the part of me that knew what to do overrode the fear. I dragged him back into the house, grabbed a wet dish rag, and clamped it onto the worst of the gashes. Then I raised his arm and with my other hand, I found the artery feeding his arm, pressing it against his bone to shut off the blood flow to the arm.

I saw Mike again several years later, and he showed me the scars. They were worse than I ever imagined. But he thanked me for saving his life. At the time, I swear, that was not on my mind. I was just doing what needed to be done.

That kind of instinct defines the warrior type. They are essentially people of action. And I call it an instinct, even though training is a critical part of the response as well. My younger son is a hero, and I can see it in the way he runs to the crisis.

He was eight years old when the local Homecoming Festival closed at the end of the weekend (they still have the festival, by the way. It wasn't closing, like for good), the owner of the local alligator sanctuary was packing his inventory away for the trip back to the shop. Among the "little friends" Dave had brought with him was a five-foot American Alligator, who was a huge hit with the kids. No, he didn't take anyone's arm off, in fact he was quite docile the whole weekend. Until closing time, when Dave and his assistant tried to stuff that 'gator into a military-style duffle bag for transport.

That 'gator swung his tail around on Dave's assistant's bare back with a smack!  that I swear was heard around the world. The welt rose immediately, like he'd just taken a flogging from a foot-wide bullwhip. My boy, that eight-year-old wonder, ran ten steps to that table before I could stop him, and Dave barely had time to get one hand loose and wave him off with a panicked "NO!!!"

Shannon just can't help it. Someone screams, and he runs to the trouble. I hope he never joins the military, because he's going to find his way to the hottest part of whatever trouble is going on, and that would make a nervous dad. Yes, he's first aid trained. I can feel good with that. But he has a hero's instinct, even from the first days he could walk.

The Warrior heroes in my series are Jon Daniels and Jenna Paine. I count Jenna, because even though she's technically not a "good guy," she still counts a s hero of the Warrior Type, in that she's a person of radical action, from instinct and training.

I think I'm going to continue this discussion in future posts, because to be honest, we're getting into other territory that will take more space than just a quick blog read.

But the Warrior Hero Type is the One Who Comes To The Rescue. Whee-ha.

Talk to you next week when we take on the next type. I may even have a term for him/her.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jenna Lives

Greetings and welcome, to all who have seen and wonder what those words mean. Consider yourselves at home, and welcome. Drag up a comfy chair while I explain. And for those already familiar with Jenna and her exploits, this is (almost) a spoiler.

Jenna Lives.

It's a good thing for Jenna, and a bad thing for anyone who's ever been on her bad side. And to let you in on a secret: She's not done yet.

When we first met her, Jenna was a promising young physical therapist, companion and rehab aide to Nadia Velasquez. So what went wrong? I mean, besides being embroiled in a deadly secret that could mean the death of millions of people. Well, oh-so-awesome readers, the answers are in my first, EPIC-Award-winning novel, Becoming NADIA (Click on the picture to see more):

Becoming NADIA

"Whoa there," you say. "What do you mean, Jenna's one of the bad guys? She's such a nice person, so sweet and kind, and"

...oh, forget it. She damn near killed Jon, and at the end of this one, she totally destroys---

*wags finger* Ah, ah, ah. You almost made me tell.

Okay, she's one of the bad guys.  But she's really not a bad person. Or is she? In my second novel, Unalive, Jenna comes head to head with the agenda behind her bosses' stated goals, and learns a secret about herself as well that could mean the difference between life or death. In the process, she manages to not destroy Las Vegas or half the Eastern Seaboard as she puts two and two together in a way doesn't quite add up to five.

"Okay," you ask, "so she's really not one of the bad guys?"

Well, no, not really.

"Then she's a good guy?"

Well, no, not really. As a matter of fact, by now, you're either going to love Jenna or hate her. And we're just getting started. I mean, if you were betrayed like she was, you'd be royally pissed, right? And where vengeance is concerned, "good" and "bad" are off the table. the only thing that matters is simple, final and bloody retribution. This time, all the stops are pulled, no measure is spared, and Jenna is willing to give everything including her own life to make sure The Pinnacle never again pose a threat to her or anyone under her protection. She just might, at that.

Critical Mass

"So," you ask, "How does one get started in the awesome, ass-kicking, super-agent business, anyway?"

Sherman, set the Way-Back Machine about twenty years before the events in Becoming NADIA. Let's check in on Jenna when she was just a little...girl? Okay, let's call a spade a spade. To some, she's a girl. To others, she's nothing more than Project 14-257. What's the price for a life? What's the price for peace? When it's measured in blood, is there still room to turn around and walk out? Not according to some. Check out this one, folks:

Lies and Paine

So now you've been introduced. It's my hope that Jenna becomes as real to you as she's become to me, that she finds a place in your heart and mind, and that truly:

Want a sticker of your own? Email me at cyrus dot keith at yahoo dot com and ask. We'll get one to you. If you feel like buying my books, I certainly won't stand in your way. My work is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and a good dozen or so other retailers.

Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

D-Day: A Rememberance.

Good morning, fellow Castaways.

I promise I won't do this too often, but it is something that needs to be said today. Today is the 71st anniversary of the D-Day Invasions, and to me is a day of introspection and remembrance because of the significance in so many ways of the operation.

It was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 5,000 ships landed 156,000 soldiers on the beaches, beginning at 6:30AM. 24,000 men were inserted just after midnight, dropped by parachute or landed using assault gliders. So as I write this, the echoes of one of the largest struggles of man against man still ring through endless time. Of that number, 4,414 were confirmed dead by the end of the day, with more than three time that missing or wounded. German casualties were over 1,000 killed, and over 3,000 civilians lost their lives as well.

It was the beginning of the end of the Third Reich , the initiation of the liberation of Europe from Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. The landings took place in June of 1944. By the end of August of 1944, France was once again a free republic. Germany fell by May of 1945. The United States, Britain, Canada, and Free France joined together to make it all happen beginning on that very day 71 years ago.

In no way should we glorify war. The beaches were a meat grinder of cataclysmic proportions as men fought and died by the thousand. Forget the "good guys, bad guys" thinking. Just leave it behind. On one side, we have the Allied forces and their desire to remove Hitler from Europe. On the other side, we have German men and boys who were defending a threat to their homeland. It was a perfect picture of Hell itself, and no man or woman should have to go through it again, ever.

But as long as evil exists in this world, we will have men and women who will stand up with their very last breath and say, "No, you will not conquer. No, you will not enslave. No, you will not oppress." We as  free people must remain ready to stand between evil and the innocent, to protect with our lives the liberties given us by our Creator, and ensured by good and strong leaders.

We have to remember the horrible cost paid by those who came before, as an example for us to follow: not to die, but to fight with our very lives for freedom.

You wonder why I look with such disdain at our Big Brother culture, why I value personal liberty so highly? I look no further than my own father in law, who went ashore at the Anzio Beachhead in Italy, in the Third Wave.

The liberty they fought and shed blood for was the level little understood by many people today, who see nothing wrong with laying down their freedom for security. Folks wonder why we crotchety old farts shy away from "the new order" of things.  Today is a prime example why.

God Bless the USA.