A Writer’s Desire…

 “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

With great effort I labor, putting my words to paper, hoping to create an emotional response in my readers. How lovely to be drawn away from our own world and enter into a world wholly foreign and new. To be swept away into a climatic vision that brings forth a new feeling, or a fresh idea. But putting together a story is not an easy task. It is often with sweat and tears that the ideas form and the words take shape.

It is of great interest to me how writing a simple description can take so much thought and effort. How can one small paragraph take so many days, even weeks of preparation, yet when it finally comes together, is takes but a few moments?  The act of writing can be likened to pulling a molar firmly planted within the jaw. With great effort it is tugged and yanked before finally it is suddenly extracted.

Samuel Johnson stated that “what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” So then it is the responsibility of the writer to draw out of himself the very being of his soul in order to delight the reader as the author directs the journey placed before his audience. So hold on and come away with me as we journey together through the pages of my books.

~ Happy reading…..

Susan

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The Fate of the Epic Hero

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Like a true journey of discovery, we do not know what is around the next bend. Often our way is obscured from view. All we can do is simply take the next step, in hope, in faith, that with the following forward thrust, all will be well. Yet we should not neglect the journey, for our quest is not only about the destination. What happens along the road could make all the difference. It may shape the future of more than ourselves.

In many works of literature, we see the importance of the journey. This trek into the unknown is a metaphor for self-discovery.

It is the fate of the Epic Hero.

What defines an epic hero is that he must leave home, travel into the unknown, descend into darkness (death), be transformed (reborn), and ultimately return home a different man. A good example of an epic hero is Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit.

Bilbo is the reluctant adventurer, forced upon a journey in which he must face many hardships. As he enters into the Mines of Moria, and then again, into the evil forest of Mirkwood, he descends into darkness, and in the depths of his fearsome trial, he finds his true self. Something inside of him has changed. He is now (reborn) an authentic hero; he fulfills his quest, survives battle, and returns home a different person than when he left (There and Back Again).

Throughout THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we experience the journey as we look with different eyes.

We follow the young Hebrew, Nagad, as he fights for his nation. We trek after the Philistines as we see a vision of their quest. And we follow the Seat of Yahweh, the Ark of the Covenant as it, too, is forced to wander.

In each case, something important is about to happen. The journey for each ripples through the saga to impact the destiny of those that will shortly follow. Come along on this epic quest as our hero journeys toward self-discovery and, ultimately, helps decide the fate of a nation.

~                  ~                  ~

Nagad watched as a third of the army turned and marched slowly away, their backs to their destination. Another path would have to be forged through the wilderness, another trek over the mountains. Their journey would be more difficult, their fate a different path than the remaining host. Fortunately, the priests with their sacred burden had made it beyond the flood before the torrent raged. The seat of God would continue on as planned. And the host of men would follow, a holy battalion on its way to its own destiny, unknowing the distant course that would be their doom.

Nagad glanced over at Orach, “Will the others make it in time?”

“They will find their own path and they will come when they come.”

“Those hills are difficult. It will be a challenge for so many to travel the mountain path. I am glad we are on this side of the stream. I do not envy their journey. I will not feel at ease ‘til we get to Eben-Ezer. I fear our delay will have dire consequences.”

“It is the journey, Na’ar, that is important. For with each step we are a little closer to finding ourselves. When we arrive, it is over and self-discovery is at an end. Yes, Na’ar, it is the journey that is important. Which path we are given is up to God.” (Pg. 30)

~ Susan51JU0NxzPNL

Read the exciting first book in the Trilogy of Kings Saga, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

A nation falters, an enemy approaching; can one man overcome his past to lead his people back to God?

“An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.” −Rev. Judith Wiegman

Grand Prize Winner in the New Look Writing Contest January 2015.

A Three-fold Struggle: Symbolic Significance in a Story

In literature, a motif is a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative aspects such as theme or mood. In THE STONE OF EBENEZER, we see Nature coping with the same 51JU0NxzPNLcrisis that our main character must face—it represents the contrast between the world God created and the world marred by man.

~          ~          ~

As they journeyed through the mountain pass, the cavalcade crested yet another hill. Below lay a lush valley full of orchards. The sweet fragrance of apple blossoms rose to meet them. A gentle breeze lifted pale pink petals into the air, twirling blossoms around the party, teasing the men until the flowers showered down like snow upon the mountain.

Now that is a pretty sight, thought Nagad as he took in a deep breath, savoring the smell of peace and beauty. And he wondered at the contrast between this loveliness and the horror of battle. How could the two reside in the same realm? Truly, Yahweh had created the world in beauty. Man it was who marred the land with war, tearing the very foundation of the earth asunder with the rampage of contention and rage. Yet the quest toward battle continued ever onward against the backdrop of God’s landscape. (pg. 23-34)

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One of the main themes that runs through THE STONE OF EBENEZER is Revenge vs Forgiveness. The narrative speaks to the motives that drive what one does in order to come to terms with loss and trauma. Battle is used as a metaphor for personal struggle.

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Dominating the landscape, across the undulating ground, Nagad beheld various shades of yellow and crimson, short-lived flowers of summer, fluttering in the soft morning breeze. The smell of spring, of the uncertain glory, hung in the air, a variant wave of freshness faintly perceived, coming with the distant scent of apples wafting up from the golden blooms of the crown daisy. Breathing in the smell of the field, the green lap of the vernal season beckoned from sleep and issued forth a flood of memories of youth and peaceful times, of white linen robes and youthful love, and the soft laughter of a virgin.

Transfixed by the flowery field, by the scarlet crowfoot residing close to the ground, each with a single stem that terminated in one ruby flower, and the gilded display of the crown daisy towering over the crimson carpet, Nagad thought: how like a flower we are. We come forth and then we are cut down and fade; as a shadow we do flee, lost in the dark of night, and continue not. Of neither do we make much account, for neither can bear our confidence, for all wither and are gone.

“At the end of day, we shall be lifted up,” Nagad spoke under his breath as he raised his sword before his face. “Though the way be long and hard, we will endure.”

Tiphcar, as he displayed his blade before the readied troops, exclaimed in a loud voice, “New is the dawn before us! Now is the hour that the Lord will be glorified! If God be for us, who can stand against us!”

And there, between Mizpah and Shen, the Philistines came rushing toward them in great number, hastening unto their own fate. The vision of the heavily armored and highly trained Philistines moving forward in tight formation sent fear into the hearts of the Hebrew lines. Yet, through the knee-high stems of the crown daisy, trudging through the bushy display of glorious yellow heads, the Israelites marched onward, increasing their pace until they surged forth in swiftness of speed.

Across the expanse they sprung, as lodestones drawn by an unseen attraction, which urged them onward. Colliding, the opposing lines recoiled, the violent concussion of the forceful impact sending men back a step in a carom of clashing colors. Trampled underfoot by the myriad of sandaled feet, by the forward thrust of the rushing troops, the scarlet flowers were soon crushed and covered in the crimson stream of life’s hemal nectar. As a wave strikes a boat amidships, the soldiers dashed against each other dealing deadly blow upon deadly blow. In contention they strove to obtain what the other possessed, but which only one could hold. (pg. 255-256)

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In this scene, flowers are used to illustrate the drama of the battlefield, foreshadowing what is to come for the men fighting upon plain. Another motif is weather—the weather of the world—literally and figuratively—reflects the action and tension within the story. As nations erupt, so too, the sky ruptures in conflict.

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Thunder sounded overhead as lightning streaked across the darkening sky. Rain came down in sheets, driven with great force by the west wind, as the thundercloud burst open, the heavens rent, suddenly violent, issuing forth a forcible storm. The silent expanse of nature, whose bowels gave way, ruptured with tumultuous agitation, the dreadful fury of the tempest amid fitful bursts of wind.

The road became impassible as the route quickly turned into a sea of mud. The Ark threatened to topple as the soldiers fought to keep their footing on the slippery roadway. A breach in the lines formed as the company stood leaning into the wind, fixed firm against the storm, yet no progress made toward their destination. Bludgeoned by sound, the roar of the driving rain and wind, accompanied by the crash of thunder, obstructed the exchange of words.

“Sar, dark is coming on fast, and we are surrounded by the tormented terrain,” yelled out Phicol. “We will never reach Ekron by nightfall. The way is too difficult.”

With sound radiating through time, notes rising then lost to decay, Caphtor retorted above the thunder’s bend with dreadful voice uttering violent denunciations, oracles severe, as the storm grew more feral. The internal pressure of nature mounted a crack of thunder as though the fissure of doom rent forth with a terrible fulmination, accompanied by the intense display of light, discharging upon the atmosphere with violent exertion. Unable to control the instinct, soldiers dropped where they were, ducking with arms raised to protect their eyes from the dreadful display.

“Sar,” called out Phicol.

“Fall out,” bellowed Caphtor. “We go no farther; make ready camp.”

Amidst a thicket of storax trees, the company of men set up camp with great difficulty. Tents were torn by the terrible tempest, supplies flung about in harried havoc, the battle for dominance over the tent spike continued into the darkness. The rush of the angry wind continued through the night as the sky flew apart and then collided with a loud explosion that shook the foundations of the earth. (pg. 176-177)

~          ~          ~

It is a three-fold struggle:

The conflict is an immortal struggle—a world ruled by the gods

The Philistine god—Baal vs the Hebrew God—Yahweh

A national struggle

The Philistine nation vs The Israelite nation

A personal struggle

The Philistine soldier Ekwesh vs the Hebrew soldier Nagad

The battle is brutal; the way is tough. We all face battles in this life, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, and these battles are brutal, even as the conflicts are within THE STONE OF EBENEZER. And like our hero, we must push through the fight. This is the true sense of an epic journey, a journey that leads toward resolution.

May all your trials bring you to a place of peace.

~ Susan

The Stone of Ebenezer Official Book Trailer

Grand Prize Winner of the New Look Writing Contest

The Stone of Ebenezer
by Susan Van Volkenburgh

Coming Summer 2015

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong.

Book Cover Reveal: THE STONE OF EBENEZER

It has been long in coming, but here it is–the official book cover for
The Stone of Ebenezer
Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga

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Book Cover Reveal: The Stone of Ebenezer

The count down begins–

Next Friday!
The official book cover release in just 7 days!

This is the original storyboard of my book cover. I am so excited to share the final version!

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THE STONE OF EBENEZER
The battle is about to begin!

Things are getting exciting here as the release date for my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, draws near. Here is something to whet your appetite–a teaser for the official book trailer.

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