You thought I was going to tell you what time it is.
No such luck.
I am going to tell you how to build a clock.
There is always a story behind the story, and my story is no different. What better place to begin than the setting - Los Angeles. To be precise, the greater LA area.
Occasionally stereotypes can be dead-on accurate, but they can also be equally wrong. Those regarding Los Angeles - no one says that, it's always Ellay - are the latter, completely dead-wrong. LA is a sprawling, tough, blue-collar Mexican city with extensive ethnic neighborhoods of different varieties, including white, Jewish, Persian, Thai, Korean, Filipino, Armenian... just about everything and everyone has a couple of blocks somewhere in LA County. In the various, mostly poor white neighborhoods, things can get weird, and most of the inhabitants are transplants from other places, attracted by the myth that LA is the land of dreams for strange and deviant artistic people.
This is not true. LA is not the land of dreams. There is no opportunity at all here for artists and deviant people.The film industry has created a Hollywood myth for marketing purposes. Jobs go to rich kids and industry brats. Hollywood is corporate, political and monarchical. Anyone with any power comes from a handful of zip codes, went to a handful of universities and mostly know each others' families. Even for those with a pedigree, achieving success is mostly impossible. I can't tell you how many sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and cousins of movie stars and generational wealth I've met who are struggling to make it. Someone from BFE who doesn't know anyone has no chance of doing anything. They might as well get a real job and buy lottery tickets. Same chances... except the LA Hollywood lottery doesn't cost a dollar for a chance. The cost is more like ten years of your life. Hollywood is evil and nothing works there and is becoming more so - not less so. It is better left alone. LA is a cold town, where you can find yourself instantly alienated and alone. It is not a friendly town either. If you live in LA and visit other notoriously unfriendly cities, the first thing you notice is how friendly everyone is. New York City is Muchkinland compared to LA. Except for the hipster neighborhoods in Brooklyn. They are about the same. Seattle is a little cold too.
But now to clean the sand from the civvies.
In all seriousness, those are generalizations. LA is a huge place. It has thriving sectors in a variety of industries. If you are lucky enough to be in the upper middle class in LA, in the handful of cool neighborhoods - some of which aren't in the city at all, like Santa Monica - and just happen to find your tribe, life can be paradise. Suddenly the cold, alienating, insane asylum becomes something different altogether - and with wonderful weather to boot. What a paradox. LA is wonderful if you're in the right place, with money, and you find your people. There is a gap between rich and poor everywhere. In LA, only more so. At one point, I was poor and crazy - one of the misbegotten dream seekers. I saw the worst of what the city had to offer.
But people change, and so did I. Now I would consider myself to be a Catholic Stoic. That means I believe in living my life according to Catholic principles, and making decisions based on my principles, and having faith that what I believe is of far greater importance than what I possess.
What I believe is simple. The universe was created by an entity, one that was not created, and has always been. This entity has shown love toward its creation, and has reconciled perfect creator with imperfect creation through a sacrifice that we - creation - can understand. I return my creator's love, and love creation in turn, and accept the grace that has been offered me to join my Creator in the next stage of my being. Under this philosophy, humans are not the bad guys, rather they are all my brothers and sisters, and they deserve my love and the knowledge of any wisdom I have acquired.
Needless to say, LA is not known as being a town friendly to such people. But miraculously, I discovered my people - lots of my people. I really should have known, LA being a city of millions, that every community on earth would be represented - in numbers - and mine is no different. LA actually has a thriving Catholic artist community. Honestly, it is a very Catholic city, once you scratch the surface and get out of the tourist areas and away from the nutjobs.
So... why am I telling you all this?
So you can build a watch?
A huge part of my community is my Monday Rosary Group, which is rightfully the sisters Megan and Molly's rosary group which meets in Santa Monica every Monday, and (surprisingly) prays a rosary. The attendees are wonderful people. I can honestly say that the women and men I have met there have totally changed my conception of humanity. There is hope for us. My faith in womanhood has especially been renewed. I have changed into a more honorable person because of my participation.
So Miss Megan is always trying to connect people together, and she decided that I should get to know one Daniel Rabourdin a bit better. Daniel is from a small village near Lyon France, was an ex-soldier (I come from a military family as well) and a conservative Catholic who had worked for EWTN.
We got along like a house on fire, as the Brits say.
I found out Daniel was in the process of completing a documentary regarding an incident in the French Revolution called the Vendean Rebellion. To speak on the subject I would be giving away spoilers, since the entire world is ignorant of these happenings, so I will not. Needless to say, the more I found out, the more I realized how important true knowledge of the French Revolution really was to the modern. Indeed, all of our present problems started with the French Revolution, it seemed to me. Everything we think began with the 60's or Marx or Hitler or Stalin or Wilson actually originated in France in the 18th and early 19th century. In fact, I have begun to think less of such people as Marx and Hitler, seeing how badly they plagiarized the French. If one is going to be evil, at least be original. I would say the same to some modern Americans on our TV screens as well, to be honest.
The problem was that the Revolution was subsumed by Napoleon, who swept it under the rug. The nations and creeds responsible for Napoleon's downfall had little incentive to remember any of the madness that proceeded him. The world tried to forget, when they should have been trying to remember.
The problem was that the angry, immoral intelligentsia of Europe did not forget. They remembered, they added on, they glorified what could only be described as darkest evil. The malevolence of the French Revolution was forgotten (or romanticized), its creeds were relabeled and repackaged... and they are all with us today. I began to realize that shining a light on all of this was the most important thing that I could do with my life.
It also had to be a book, a form in which I had never even dabbled.
So I began doing research. I also formulated my goals for the writing:
1) Absolute historical accuracy.
2) Imbuing the world with a sense of history, place and language, akin to the richest fantasy and sci-fi worlds. Putting the characters in their real world, complete with a past, and all of the problems and baggage that come with it - just like us.
3) Having a full blown story, multi-dimensional characters and overarching premise to tie everything together - not just writing a story about the Vendee.
4) Leaving it all out on the field, writing to the fullest extent of my ability, taking no short cuts, and not going McDonalds lowest common denominator. I wanted to write something the opposite of Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, and had to be willing to put up with the consequences.
I made the decision to have a multiple point of view structure, like many sprawling historical epics. In addition, I thought Herman Wouk's "War and Remembrance" series was a good overall structure when broken down to its bare bones. I like to call it "To Burn a Diamond". He burned his diamonds on the page and metaphorically. My diamonds are only burned metaphorically, so I'm not giving away any spoilers regarding the fate of the Cross of Nantes here!
So here's when things got tricky. I outlined the whole gory story, everything. I did all of my research. I went to France for a month and spent countless hours in museums and discovering my locations. Then I started to write. I quickly realized that I had - at the very least - three books. I had no idea what to do. If I have at least three books, then I am ending the first one at the end of what was effectively the first act. This is what is called a boo-boo of epic proportions.
This was not a happy moment.
I had really no choice, in my opinion, than to just gut it out. I would put my best leg forward, write the daylights out of my first 150-thousand words and hope for the best. I hoped that my writing and research would prove to the reader that I knew what I was doing, that this was the beginning of an epic story and the rest was worth waiting for. I knew where I was going and this wasn't some kind of sequel-for-the-sake-of-branding that people get shoved down their throats nowadays. I have somewhere to go, and I knew precisely from the moment of writing where it was that I was going.
I suppose it will take some time to get there. I would only say trust me, please, and have patience. I'm getting there as fast as I can.