Five A.M.

Five a.m.  The birds come then, don’t they; they always do–and I watch.  It’s not that their arrival is so unique.  I see birds at other times of the day.  It’s just that, when they come at this time, they bring the solitude with them: that exceptional soundlessness that cocoons our lives in a vault of early morning quiet–but not quite.  There are sounds, the sounds of the world waking up.  There’s the rustling of squirrels in the nearby brush for example, the wind in the leaves outside my bedroom window–and, sometimes, there’s the steady drip of condensation melting from the eaves, like the gentle easing of our lives, fading from us like a dream pushed quietly aside.

It’s a spiritual thing really; a half-naked timelessness that transcends our mortal existence and links us to something more durable than ourselves.  It’s the totality of wonder that surrounds us–the baby’s gentle cooing at its mother’s side, the dogs sleeping quietly at our feet, the day positioning itself stoically for sunrise. 

And then it comes: car doors banging, the sound of motors turning, breakfast pans banging against metal grates.  Mothers and fathers chase their children into the morning mist; rush them into cars and take them to school.  Parents speed to work.  The day begins.  

And, at that point, it might as well be mid-day for the solitary world is broken.  But for a time it was there; we saw  it and, at five a.m. we felt it.  We let it fold over our faces like freshly washed linen, a dream pushing the boundaries of our existence and bringing us closer to the cosmos.  And sometimes, if we’re exceptionally quiet, we can look into the face of God and see him peering back–into the eternal depths of our souls…and making a place for us…in His universe.

Dorner’s Last Stand – Big Bear, California

As those of you who have been following my blogs already know, I live in Big Bear, California.  Big Bear is a mountain resort that became “famous”
in February of this year as the place chosen by Ex-LAPD police officer, Christopher Dorner, to hide out from police after a murderous rampage that left several people dead and others wounded.  Later, Dorner left Big Bear and was surrounded by officers in a mountain cabin located several miles away.  What followed was a siege that lasted several hours and a fire that completely consumed the structure.  Dorner’s remains were later found inside with a single gunshot wound to the head.

Although the cabin where the police surrounded Dorner (a place I have decided to call Dorner’s Last Stand) is not far from where I live, I had never been there before last Wednesday.  There are two main routes that go from Big Bear to the southern side of the San Bernardino mountains where Los Angeles and the Inland Empire are located.  One of these is Highway 38 where Dorner’s Last Stand lies.  This is the less traveled route but, partially on a whim–and partially because I wanted to buy some truly exceptional  beef jerky from a country store located along the route–my wife and I decided to take Highway 38 home from a doctor’s appointment she had in the city. 

Country Store in Mentone, CA with exceptional beef jerky

Country Store in Mentone, CA with exceptional beef jerky

On an equally impulsive whim, I decided to veer off the road on our way home and take a look at the place where Dorner made his last stand.  The cabin itself is not located on Highway 38, but is situated off a side road which goes from the highway down to small resort.  We found it with no trouble–the ruins are completely surrounded by a chain link fence, but are right off the main road.  I was able to snap the picture shown below with my cell phone which isn’t the best, but will give you an idea of the layout. 

Dorner's Cabin

You know, there’s not a lot that happens in Big Bear and, with the exception of winter ski season when the status of the snow is extremely important to the local snowboarders and skiers, we don’t often make the news out of L.A.  The situation with Dorner was an exception, however.  Not only did we make the local news, but the events associated with his manhunt were reported nationally.   I remember talking to a woman at a call center in Atlanta while all this was going on and, when i told her I lived in Big Bear, she immediately knew where I was and wanted an update on the situation with Dorner.

It was pretty exciting around here for a time and, although there were reports of Dorner being fairly close–the condos where he hid out briefly are only about two miles from my house–none of us were very frightened.  We’re mountain folks after all–a tougher breed you know.  Actually, we’re all mostly transplanted Angelenos but most of the people around here won’t admit to that.  There’s something that happens to you once you’ve lived a few seasons in the mountains.  You shovel your own driveways, buy a four-wheel drive vehicle so you can get around without having to “chain up”, and you pretty much get accustomed to living out of the smog and traffic.  You no longer feel like a Southern Californian, although Big Bear is really only about an hour and a half away from shopping and all the other things the Southland is known for.

When the Dorner thing was going on I was reminded of another manhunt in the mountains I had heard about once.  It was in a different mountain range–the Sierra Nevadas which lie roughly a hundred miles northwest of Big Bear–and  it was in another century, but it was a manhunt none-the-less, and it was in the mountains.  The incident I’m referring to had to do with an escape from a prison in Carson City, Nevada that happened in 1871.  A shootout later ensued in the area now known as Convict Lake (which takes its name from the incident).  It’s an interesting story and the parallels to our own “Convict Like-style” incident are intriguing.  It seems like things never really change that much: bad guys are still bad guys and there are still shootouts between cops and robbers.

Anyway, enough of all that for now.  Hopefully, the above was interesting little side note and who knows, one day I may write a more involved story about the whole thing.  In the meantime, speaking of stories let me remind you all about my novel, ZION’S WEB. 

final-cover-zions-web10.jpg

I’m still running a promotion until May 15th whereby the first fifty people to order the book from my website will get free shipping.  Just go to www.michaelsnowauthor.com and enter the promo code of Bfree50 when prompted.  I’m also looking for feedback about the novel, gleaned from previous posts I’ve made, information on my website, or anything else you can gather.  The person providing me with the most meaningful feedback between now May 15th will earn a fee copy of the book.

Good luck, and I’ll see you all on the web.

Introduction to ZION’S WEB

I was thinking this morning about my novel, ZION’S WEB, and pondering what might be the best way to introduce people to the book who haven’t yet read it.  It was then that it dawned on me: What more fitting way to introduce people to ZION’S WEB that let them read the introduction.  Please note that we’re talking about an author’s introduction here, one that is meant to give an overview of some of the topics dealt with in ZION’S WEB, not to provide a synopsis of the actual storyline itself.  For that, please go to my website  at www.michaelsnowauthor.com where I provide a detailed summary of the story.

The introduction, exactly as it appears in the book, is presented below.

Introduction

When the Mormon Church abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, many of its members refused to accept this decision. Eventually, some of these people traveled to Mexico and established colonies where they were free to continue the banned practice. One such individual was Alma LeBaron who, in the early 1920s, moved his children and multiple wives to Northern Mexico where he formed a polygamist community called Colonia LeBaron. The LeBaron family was later excommunicated from the Mormon Church for refusing to give up the practice of plural marriage.

In 1955 Alma’s son Joel formed The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times in Salt Lake City, which became the official church of Colonia LeBaron. At the time, the Fullness of Times sect was but the newest member of a group of polygamist churches whose members collectively became known as fundamentalist Mormons. Joel, with the help of his brother Ervil, ran his church until 1967 when Ervil was removed from leadership for challenging his brother’s authority.

Ervil eventually formed his own church in San Diego in 1972 known as The Church of the Lamb of God. However, Ervil’s doctrine was radically different from that of his brother. Ervil had come up with a concept called Civil Law which he believed gave him the right, as self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the church, to pronounce a sentence of death upon members or others he felt were in violation of his law. One of those upon whom such a sentence fell was his own brother Joel.

Not long after Ervil’s church was formed, Joel LeBaron was murdered in Ensenada. Although Ervil LeBaron was later convicted of this murder in Mexico, that conviction was ultimately overturned and he was released from prison. For a number of years Ervil continued to send out assassins to do his bidding, some of whom were his own wives. This practice eventually caught up with him, however, when he was convicted of masterminding the killing of a rival fundamentalist leader in the United States and sent to prison in Draper, Utah. Ervil later died in prison of an apparent heart attack.

ZION’S WEB deals with the topic of polygamy, an issue that continues to capture the imagination of the public with situations like the raid on the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas in 2008, and the recent conviction of its leader Warren Jeffs for sex crimes. But polygamy is a topic that is difficult to discuss without offending people. A fictional group similar to the LeBarons is presented in this novel. Such a group was chosen because it not only provides a vehicle to address the subject matter without basing the narrative on any real group existing in the world today, but it makes for a compelling story because it is inspired by events that really happened.

In addition to the items just mentioned, it is impossible to discuss polygamy—at least as it exists in the United States—without also touching on the topic of Mormonism. In reading this novel the reader may question whether the LeBarons were Mormons. Perhaps more importantly, the reader might ask if—despite their name—any of the groups claiming to be fundamentalist Mormons can claim to be Mormons in any sense.

The answer lies in the roots of the Mormon Religion itself. Mormonism has at its core two basic principles: 1) The idea that divine revelation can happen in the world today and 2) the concept that obedience to God’s word, as revealed in those revelations and elsewhere, is necessary. If God can command his people to practice polygamy, he can also withdraw that commandment which, according to his followers, he did in 1890. Anyone continuing the practice after that point cannot make the claim of being a true Mormon, or a Mormon at all if the Church finds out what they are doing, for they will be excommunicated. There are undoubtedly many good and sincere people who make the claim of being fundamentalist Mormons—people who should no more be associated with LeBaron’s crazy clan than Mormons should—but these individuals are not Mormons; no more than Protestants can claim to be Roman Catholics.

As noted earlier, the public continues to have a fascination with polygamy. Perhaps it is because it is still embraced by many people today, even though it has long been outlawed. Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that it was once practiced by one of the largest and fastest growing religions in America and then abruptly cancelled. Was the abandonment of polygamy by the Mormon Church driven purely by pressure from the United States Government to end the practice, combined with a desire to achieve statehood, as some believe, or do the answers lie in the roots of Mormon Doctrine itself? The author has his theories, which are touched upon in this novel, but they are only theories. The Mormon Church has never made an official statement on the subject, leaving the question for its individual members to ponder as a matter of faith.

Whatever the reasons, the fascination with polygamy is not likely to end soon. With that in mind, this book adds its perspective to the debate, along with what those turning its pages will hopefully find to be a damned good read.

 Michael Snow              January, 2013  

Remember, between now and May 15th you can purchase a copy of ZION’S WEB  and avoid shipping costs simply by going to the website at www.michaelsnowauthor.com and entering the free shipping code when prompted which is Bfree50.  The promotion is limited to the first fifty customers so hurry to take advantage of this significant discount.

Meet Brenda Cooper

Okay, so now that I’ve introduced you to  Zack Burton, it’s time for you to meet Brenda Cooper, the heroine of my novel, ZION’S WEB.  Brenda has just escaped from Zion’s Mount, or ZM as it’s sometimes called, a polygamist compound run by so-called fundamentalist Mormons located near Trona, California. 

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles (Photo credit: Damian Gadal)

Trona is a desert hot spot located roughly two hundred miles north of Los Angeles.  In addition to being home to the Trona Pinnacles, a stunning array of monoliths created from Tufa deposits, Trona is known for its scorching temperatures and the creation of soda ash, a chemical used mostly in the production of glass.  Chemical deposits are very common in Trona, so common that the kids at the nearby high school play on a dirt football field since grass won’t grow in the area due the highly acidic nature of the soil.

Brenda is the third wife of Rulon Cooper, a man forty years her senior who serves in the leadership of the Church of The Redeemed, a group of violent polygamists living at Zion’s Mount.  Due to the status of her husband, the cult will stop at nothing to get her back–including murder.

Brenda has been raised in the church and, as a result, knows little else.  She realizes one thing, however: she knows she hates being part of a polygamist marriage.  As a result she has become convinced that she needs to get away from ZM.  Although her plans originally included going back and retrieving her fourteen-year old daughter Jessica, along with Brenda’s six-year old son Ben, those plans quickly became ruined once she is out of ZM.

As the novel progresses we learn more about Brenda’s feelings and even get a first hand look at some of the main things that differentiate mainstream Mormonism from the radical offshoots that incorrectly call themselves fundamentalists.  We feel Brenda’s angst as she learns of her daughter’s impending marriage to a man thirty-five years her senior and later share in her struggles as she strives to get Jessica and Ben out of the compound.

I hesitate to tell much more for fear of spoiling the experience for anyone interested in reading the novel.  Speaking of which, if any of you are considering purchasing ZION’S WEB, now is the time to do it since between now and May 15th I will be running a promotion.  Be one of the first fifty people to purchase ZION’S WEB during that time and you’ll receive free shipping.  Simply go to www.michaelsnowauthor.com and enter the free shipping code, which is Bfree50, along with your credit card information and you’ll get the novel with no shipping costs.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  I’ll be back soon with more information on ZION’S WEB…or who knows…perhaps something you may find even more intriguing.

A Writer’s Life

As you can see, my tagline is a writer’s life.  Do I have one?  Perhaps you can tell me when you’ve finished reading this article. 

Exactly what is a writer’s life? I imagine a writer’s life means different things to different people, but I think many of us might answer that it has something to do with fame and fortune, the kind that only a handful of writers enjoy–famous ones we see on all the best sellers lists, like James Patterson, Nora Roberts or Stephen King.  Although I dream of those things too, that was not necessarily what I had in mind when I came up with my tagline. 

So what exactly do I think a writer’s life is then?  If it’s not necessarily fame and fortune, then what is it?  To me it’s the ability to add something to the world around me in the only meaningful way I believe I can.  If I was a sculptor, or a carpenter, or a designer of great buildings I might feel I was adding something to the world in creating those things.  But writing is all I have.  But for me it is enough.

It’s a wondrous thing to step into the lives of people who have never lived before…anywhere but in your own mind.  To bring these characters full blown into the world makes me at least feel like some sort of literary Frankenstein.  But it’s more than just that.  There’s a kind of metaphysical turbulence to writing that rocks the soul, like the tide of centuries knocking against the keel of our own lives. 

I may not have the fame and fortune at this point, nor do I have the ability to do as I please–which I imagine some writers enjoy–I believe I still have a writer’s life.  What is it Descartes said?  ” I think therefore I am.”  In my view its more like I write therefore I am. 

But although I do not enjoy some of the other things the famous writers do, I do share one thing with them: I have the wonder that comes from being able to express myself.  To look on God’s creations and send a message back to him in spirit, one that says, “I see the things You have created and I am a part of all that.”  That’s truly miraculous.  Like all writers, I feel I’m on a spirit journey of sorts, one that won’t end as long as I have the ability to put pen to paper.  For me that’s a writer’s life…so I guess I really do have one.Big Bear Pictures II 005

I

Passion

So here I am again. Posting. Last time I introduced you all to Zack Burton, one of the main characters in my new novel, ZION’S WEB (for details on ZION’S WEB see http://www.michaelsnowauthor.com). Today I thought I’d give a little background on how I wrote the novel. This article will be of primary interest to other writers, but non-writers may find it interesting as well.

Before I get into the specifics I think it might be helpful to explain a little bit about myself and how I came by writing in the first place. I’ve always had an interest in writing; ever since I can remember. I used to write out stories longhand when I was kid and then laugh when my mother would read them, mispronouncing all the misspelled words as she did. (This is a problem I still have, but with the advent of computers and spellcheck it has diminished somewhat.)

Later when I was in high school I would hang out in the library with all the writing nerds (we didn’t have computers then). I remember once when we were all together discussing a passage from Ray Bradbury’s novel, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. The part we were talking about is a fairly well written piece where one of the main characters is contemplating why people wake up at three in the morn. One section in particular sticks in my mind. It reads, “Women never wake then do they? They sleep the sleep of babes and children. But men in middle age? They know that hour well.” I couldn’t know then how meaningful this passage was to become to me in later years.

When I was thirty I bought my first typewriter–an old Royal that still sits in my garage. We still didn’t have computers at that point. I banged out my first novel on that thing–a three hundred page missive that also sits in the garage. I tried for several years to get that book published but alas, life got in the way.

Fast forward to ZION’S WEB. By the time I wrote my current novel, I had pretty much learned the art of time management. I set a schedule of writing an hour each morning and, when convenient, a couple of hours on Saturday. I stuck to it and eventually got the novel finished. I wouldn’t have been able to do that, however, without the intervention of another word: passion.

I learned early on that merely liking what others have written is not enough; setting a schedule that works for you is not enough; being disciplined and able to stick to that schedule is not enough. You have to have the burning desire to see your words in print that comes from somewhere…I know not where. My writing has always been a race against time. I have always felt like I needed to say something, something meaningful that had to to be thrown out into the universe for what purpose I can only guess at. Dylan Thomas talked about the “grief thief of time” and in that regard he was right: not only have we a limited amount of time to live, we writers have a limited amount of time to write, to get our words out there where they’re ultimately destined to go.

May God be with us all, and especially us writers. May God grant us the passion to send our words out into the universe to where they’re ultimately destined to end up–and may He give us the discipline to get them there in time.