Timeless Thoughts on Wisdom

Miyamoto Musashi, The Five Rings:

Do not allow your mind to become clouded, but make it expansive, and in this broadness you should place your wisdom. It is utmost importance to polish both your wisdom and your mindset devotedly.

Honing your wisdom, you will recognize what is right and wrong in any situation, and understand the good and bad of everything; knowing every art and skill, and being familiar with every Way, when you have achieved a condition where you cannot be tricked by anyone in the world in the tiniest way — that is the wisdom at the heart of strategy.

Sun Tzŭ, The Art of War:

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight…He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared…If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

King Solomon, Proverbs:

Wisdom calls aloud in the street. She raises her voice in the public squares…Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold…preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you…whoever fails to find wisdom harms himself; all who hate me love death.

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Is Barnes and Noble a Lost Cause?

I hope not, but after what went down last week that involved firing 1800 full-time employees, things don’t look good. Almost four years ago, I wrote about Barnes & Noble reinventing itself (which was a rewrite of a 2013 post).

Yet little has changed, and much has gotten worse.

Amazon is opening stores, indies have thrived, but Barnes and Noble continues to falter. It seems bound and determined to hold on to this sell-everything-do-everything model from yesteryear. Even Wal-Mart doesn’t do that anymore. Just closing stores and cutting people – without changing your model – doesn’t promote longevity. Just ask Sears and Kmart. Barnes and Noble should be doing this:

Focus on strengths. Narrow the focus back to basics. Be the local, neighborhood bookseller.

Not fire your most experienced people.

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Something Amazing Ends Soon

The amazing prices of $2.99 for the ebook, and $12.99 for the paperback of Among the Shadows, ends in a few days. There has never been a better time to choose a side in the War Among the Shadows. Join the six Watchers while you still can.

What was locked in shadow stirs, and where darkness has laid dormant, evil awakes.

This is not some mythical land, nor the distant past. Our own world, our own time, will face malice not seen since ancient times. Once, when the world was new, the Fallen battled the Light over the destiny of humankind. Civilization was left in flames, the Scourges turned back by the Watchers in the last hour. The Darkness, though, was not defeated.

Now, there are six that will decide the fate of us all. A new generation of Watchers, gifted by the Light.

Ethan, with unmatched strength and speed, has walked unafraid among the shadows. Milena is his equal and can command the life around her. Kyra, but a child, can see into the minds of men. The Darkness fears what she may become. Conrad can sidestep time and pass through the veil. Kane must conquer his fears even as the energy of Healing surges within. Duncan wields the substance of life as a weapon none can survive.

Those they face, the Dark One’s Followers, are also gifted. Their skills were forged in blackness.

The depraved seek lost relics infused with unimaginable power. Through portals of time they will raise an army of nightmarish creatures once lost to myth and legend. Collapse and ruin they will bring.

A war of the worst sort has begun. The six Watchers must stem the tide, or will they be drowned by the flood of darkness that ends the age of man?


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Equality and Diversity of Humans…and Elves?

Fantasy tales are often populated with a wide array of beings. Elves, humans and dwarves are a common trio, along with trolls, orcs and countless other variations. Not all authors have filled their stories with these fantastic races to purposely tell stories of diversity or race-relations.  However, long before terms like diversity were buzzing in everyone’s minds, two masters of fantasy had made a statement on equality among people. Joseph Loconte writes in A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War:

[J.R.R.] Tolkien and [C.S.] Lewis encountered the horrific progeny of [eugenics] in the trenches and barbed wire and mortars of the Great War [World War I] — and it gave them great pause about human potentiality…the characters in their novels possess a great nobility, creatures endowed with a unique capacity for virtue, courage, and love. Indeed, a vital theme throughout is the sacred worth of the individual soul in Middle-Earth and Narnia, every life is of immense consequence.

The “races” of Narnia and Middle-Earth are very much like us, always at odds with each other: Elves hate dwarves; elves look down on humans; hobbits are obviously different from their larger human cousins; orcs once were elves.  And yet the fellowship of the ring throws together polar opposite, feuding races in a quest to the save the world.

Against all odds, they succeeded.  A powerful message among the many in these stories.

Tolkien and Lewis began writing during a time when eugenics was on the rise. This misuse of science and philosophies pretending to be science was rationale to cleanse humanity of undesirable races, beliefs or attributes. People remember the result of this horror in World War II under the Nazis, yet don’t know that this thinking had been promoted among the “elite” thinkers and governments across the world for decades.

While many many post-WWI writers saw hopelessness, and others turned to Progress as a god to right humanity, Tolkien and Lewis saw the importance of every life. They wrote of evil that couldn’t be reasoned away — and could be hidden behind “science” and “progress.” The equality of peoples doesn’t automatically equate to the equality of ideas and actions. Even Tolkien’s “dreadful orcs are presented as rational beings” — but being rational isn’t the same as being on the side of virtue.

Middle-Earth and Narnia showed how mankind, even with its capacity for wrong, has innate qualities that can defeat the most terrible of evils; qualities that transcend superficial differences among people, and show that we are much more than a result of randomness and fate.

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Why do Young Readers Turn to Fantasy?

The fantasy genre has exploded in popularity over the past twenty years. From the big screen adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, to endless new novels often directed to teens and young adults. Fantasy has always appealed to younger readers as escapism, but is this the only reason, or is there something more for the current generation?

Rebecca LuElla Miller writes of deeper reasons in The Appeal Of Fantasy For Young Adults, in that these readers have been:

…expected to do little more than have a good time and do their homework, [now they] long for significance. They want to do something that matters, that has eternal purpose…long for a life that matters, and they find in fantasy a world that needs someone who will step up and do just that.

Then too, fantasy helps young people organize the world. There is moral right and wrong, and the characters in fantasy must align themselves with one or the other. There’s also history that makes a difference in the here and now, prophesy that tells about the future, and decisions that make or break a destiny.

So I suspect that these, and the other reasons that LuElla details, are not all that different for all age groups. Finding your true purpose, your place in the Story, is the desire that burns in all people.

Younger readers just haven’t given up on that quest. They haven’t allowed societal forces to tell them where to go or what to do. Yes, one could also argue that flawed materialistic and relativistic beliefs have replaced solid and logical worldviews.

Perhaps a good dose of fantasy is, ironically, needed to show us reality.

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A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and a Great War

Check out the trailer for the upcoming series on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis:

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Awakened, Uncontrollable Power

Kat Bloodmayne was experimented on by her father.  Now her soul is dying and an uncontrollable power within her threatens all around her.

When we last left Kat in Tainted, she had learned of the darkness infecting her father.  He seeks to capture her and take her power for an insidious Frankenstein-esque goal — and is willing to sacrifice his daughter in the process.

Now, in Awakened, Morgan L. Busse continues Kat’s trials as she seeks a cure for what is destroying her from within, while her father’s bounty hunters chase her to the ends of Austrium.

Awakened is set in a steampunk era that almost was: Victorian style, merged with the industrial age, and one of airships and mechanized war.  So are you ready to enter this world where the Darkness is rapidly descending? Will Kat control her power and restore her soul?

Or will she destroy all those around her, even those she loves?

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Where are our Sages?

Being a “mentor” or “life coach” appears to be a popular career choice. I don’t know if it’s a generational trend, or a sign of some underlying needs.  I tend to think it’s the latter, but I do know that our fiction is full of these mentors, or Sages, that seek to pass on their guidance. The role of the Sage is not a new one, it’s part of the ancient tradition of one generation passing on to the next their wisdom.

Perhaps a lack of that transfer of wisdom is the cause of the growing trends. Fiction, though, has been reminding us all along of this lost responsibility of each generation. John Eldredge, on writing on the stages of a man’s life in The Way of the Wild Heart, explores the Sages of fiction:

Continue reading

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The Untamed Find Their Story

Jason Clark writes in his book Surrendered and Untamed:

When I was a kid it was possible for boys to kill evil giants and men to walk on water. When I was a kid it was possible to live inside a whale, a raging fire and a lions den. When I was a kid it was possible to pray for the sick and watch them recover. Shadows could heal, and the dead could be raised. When I was a kid I believed that with God, all impossibilities were possible.

But now Clark, as an adult, finds that this wonder has been turned into “tamed three point sermons.”

Even if one isn’t theistic in their beliefs, most will understand what Clark is writing about. No, it’s more than understanding. They feel it burning within them. We grow up searching for purpose, our story. Grand plans are made and lofty thoughts pondered. Nothing is impossible. The wonder of life and creation is still with us. Then, one day, we wake up in a land that looks nothing like what we imagined.

Reality, some people call it. Life.

These are excuses. And not very good ones.

Sometimes it takes time to find our part in the Story. Everything conspires to put a stop to uncovering what we were meant to be or do. Forces in the world want us to give up, throw in the towel. Every once in awhile there are glimpses of where we should be.

Memories. The sunset. The stars. Children who have yet been trained to give up, forget and not see.

Here’s to never giving up. Being revolutionary. Standing up to the status quo and those who say you cannot or should not, or won’t ever be.

Find your story. Don’t stop until you do. Not ever.

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Imagination and the Doorway to Reality

Writers often draw us into the worlds and characters that burst from their imaginations.  These “made-up” worlds are reason for some to shun this or that genre because they are imaginary. The truth, though, is that authors aren’t writing imaginary stories. Alister McGrath, in his biography of C.S. Lewis, explains:

Narnia is imaginative, not an imaginary, world. Lewis was quite clear that a distinction had to be drawn between those ideas. The “imaginary” is something that has been falsely imagined, having no counterpart in reality. Lewis regards such an invented reality as opening the way to delusion. The “imaginative” is something produced by the human mind as it tries to respond to something greater than itself…to “communicate more Reality to us.”

Lewis would use his imaginative world to explore serious themes like “origins of evil, nature of faith, and the human desire for God” — not unlike most writers have grand ideas of deep thoughts woven through their narrative.

Quite often their starting point to accomplish this is surprisingly very simple. Narnia started with “an image of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood.” Tolkien scrawled on a paper, “In a hole in he ground there lived a hobbit,” after the idea popped in his head and he “did not know why” it had. From these humble origins, grand tales came to life.

What lives in your imagination, ready to inspire, entertain and challenge?

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