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persona-non-grata-novel-stephen-j-stirling-978-1-4621-1450-4Welcome to the official website of author Stephen J. Stirling and the book Shedding Light on the Dark Side: Defeating the Forces of Evil, A Guide for Youth and Young Adults, and the novel Persona non Grata, coming July 2014.

Persona non Grata
Paladin is way out of his depth! Sent to Crimea to bring a former student home, Paladin is soon embroiled in international conspiracy. Close calls and adventure are the norm in this thrilling tale! Find out more…

SNAPSHOTS of a STARK PARADISE

A view of the Geiranger Fjord from the top of the mountain.

A view of the Geiranger Fjord from our mountain top location while filming for the “Dragon Age” music video.  The barely visible village of the same name nestles beneath towering cliffs at the tip of the glacial fjord in the distance.

IMG_0147Lindsey Stirling performs at the edge of the fjord while an octocopter captures an aerial shot.

IMG_0133Lindsey, director and camera crew on location on the frigid shores of Geirangerfjiorden.  Note how warmly everyone is bundled up — except for the performing violinist/dragon slayer.

THE GLACIAL AMPHITHEATER

I’ve been cold in my life.  I lived in the midst of the Wasatch Mountains in Provo, Utah, I spent a winter in the suburbs of Chicago braving the blistering gusts off Lake Michigan, and I spent six months of my life on the shores of the Straits of Magellan south of Patagonia.  But I have never been as cold as I was on the day I stood in freezing blast of wind that pelted into me on the mountain top of Dalsnibba.

The weather conditions took us all by surprise.  Lindsey knew she was doing a video shoot on a mountain peak for a game called “Dragon Age”. But she hadn’t been forewarned of this.  None of us were. However, our guide and protector, Havard had been here before. Part of the Norwegian expedition which reconquered Antarctica in 2012, Havard was well prepared for harsh climate with a full store of winter gloves, hats and parkas in the back of his SUV, and  plenty of survival skills which were to be life savers.

Diane and I perfectly acclimated to the mild weather of Norway.

Diane and I perfectly acclimated to the mild weather of Norway.

Lindsey, of course, carried on like a trooper.  After the initial shock, (and an opportunity to thaw briefly in the motor home which accompanied the crew), Lindsey accepted the inevitable and submitted without complaint.

By the time she had finished with makeup and costuming, the film crew was ready.  And I should point out that while everyone else on the location were wrapped snugly in parkas, ski caps and face masks.  Lindsey, by contrast, wore leggings and a light shirt, without any protection for her hands or face — running along the mountain cliffs and playing her violin while bracing herself against the icy winds which constantly threatened to blow her into the valley below.

It was only the efforts or Havard that kept Lindsey from freezing to death – and from tumbling off the mountain. He and another big Norwegian, Shel, (who played the part of the Inquisitor) became her protectors.  In a certain sense Havard became the decision maker in the shoot.  Eventually, no one did much without Havard’s approval.  Leadership can be a random element.  It so often simple falls on the shoulders of he who is prepared to bear it.

After every shot, Havard was there with a parka and a set of gloves for Lindsey, as well as a survival bag to protect her from the elements.  (It was actually quite toasty inside. I tried it.)  When her hands got too exposed to the cold he zipped down his jacket, and while I held the violin and bow, Lindsey thrust her hands into his armpits.  Wow!  (She tried it on me first.  It was a jolt to the nervous system, but certainly warmed up her fingers to play again.)  Havard became the indispensable man on the shoot.  He was the key to our sub-zero, wind-chill survival.

Though the shoot began in the morning, the sun hung in the sky at the level of late afternoon throughout the day, until it grew weary and dipped below the horizon.  We had filmed several set ups at three locations and were exhausted as we wound our way down the mountain to the the hotel in tiny Geiranger.

The next morning we were back on location, filming the establishing shots with Lindsey from the frozen crags just above the Geirangerfjord,  Once again, it was incredibly early, and incredibly cold, but everyone did their part until the director said, “That’s a wrap.”  They really were an extremely efficient crew and the material they shot was awesome.

The moment the film was declared “in the can”, Lindsey, Diane and I hurried to the waiting motor home and made our hurried way the several hundred miles to Oslo.  We were already running late.  Twisting our way southeast, we passed through some of the most beautiful farmland I have ever seen, marked by sod-roofed homes and lush green sheep fields, clinging to the verdant hills of central Norway.  Gradually, the lush countryside gave way to signs of denser civilization as we neared the nerve-center of the nation.

Six and a half hours after our departure we arrived in Oslo, just in time for Lindsey’s media interviews, a sound check, and her waiting guests at meet and greet.  The concert at the Sentrum was crowded and warm.  Diane and I sat alone in the balcony and enjoyed the show from another angle.  It was fascinating for me to ponder where we had been in the past two days.  Visiting Norway had been one of the great adventures of my life.

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THROUGH THE FJORDS OF NORWAY

“What are we doing tomorrow, Lindsey?”

“Well, I agreed to do a video shoot up in Norway.  Do you want to come or would you rather relax for the day?”

Duh!

No sooner was the Stockholm show over than the three of us were whisked out of the building into a waiting car which took us to a hotel by the airport.  (Lindsey didn’t even get the chance to see her fans afterwards, which she always enjoys.)  Apparently, Lindsey was under instructions to get a good night’s rest.  The next day was to be an exhausting one.  As it was we only got a few hours’ sleep at the hotel before we had to catch a shuttle to the airport before dawn.  There we bumped around before we found our check in gate at desk 7/8, which was very much like Harry Potter’s platform nine and three quarters.  It didn’t exist.  We did eventually find our flight agent and the pilot waiting for us.  They greeted us, took our bags and hustled past security and then escorted us to our aircraft – a Citation Bravo, waiting on a distant corner of the airfield.  There are certain advantages to flying on a private jet – the first being that if you happen to be late the plane will generally not take off without you.

Other perks are equally awesome.  There were three passengers on the plane – Lindsey, Diane and I — in addition to the pilot and the co-pilot (who also served as the stewardess).  So there was plenty of leg room and arm room.  There was also an entire basket of chocolates and plenty of non-alcoholic stuff to drink.  Best of all, I left my bag in the aisle, (not, I point out safely stowed under the seat in front of me).  And no one came around at take-off and told me to unrecline my seat or return my tray to its full, upright position.  It was way cool!

As we lifted off from the runway I also realized this was to be one of the smoothest flights I ever took.  The trip northwest to the coast of Norway was to last about an hour and a half.  It was an incredible leap over almost 500 miles of semi-wilderness terrain.

When we arrived in Alesund above the 60th parallel it was still dark.  But as we disembarked, there was already a car parked beside the plane waiting for us.  From the driver’s seat stepped a big, blond-haired Norwegian, Havard.  Little did we know, Havard was not only our driver and guide through this excursion, but our protector as well.

He took our bags and tucked them into the trunk and then offered us breakfast – yogurt, fruit and granola bars he’s picked up before he arrived.  He apologized for not providing us with a warm meal, but explained that he had three and a half hours of driving to do and we had to hurry.  We drove from the Alesund Airport and from craggy island to island through several subterranean tunnels, frequently going underground (and under water) for several minutes at a time, until we finally emerged into the light of day and our long, beautiful drive through the fjords of Norway.  It was the most pristine, breathtaking journey of my life, weaving in and out of the narrow glacial inlets, dwarfed by steep cliffs towering above us.  The forbidding magnificence of the scenery was accented by the deep blue water which stretched before us for miles, accented by the mountain walls of rich, lush greenery.

We stopped in a tiny village on the Sunnylvsfjord to catch a small ferry to the other side. Havard invited me to climb from the truck and gave me a tour of the ferry and a panorama of the fjord from the bow of the boat.  It was absolutely freezing.  There was a harsh barrier which protected this splendor from the abuse of men and the twenty-first century.  The landscape grew all the more breathtaking to me.

We drove about a half hour more, through the hills and beyond the line of verdant foliage, where the stark mountains and patches of ice and snow gave the setting another kind of beauty.  We wound down into a deep valley to the town of Geiranger, and then up into the mountains on the other side.  Finally we reached the top and parked where the film crew waited.

We expected it to be cold.  We knew the temperature was below zero.  What we did not expect was the 30-40 mph winds which pelted us as we opened the car doors.  This was a day on a mountain top which would never be forgotten.

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A ROYAL APPOINTMENT

On Monday morning, while the rest of the crew began a long day’s efforts that would culminate in another Lindsey Stirling show, Diane and I got up, showered and prepared ourselves for an excursion into Stockholm.  Jan Sven, the German bus driver, gave us directions into the city proper and even provided us with a map.  We then ventured forth, taking our lives into our hands, strangers on the streets of a foreign city.  Actually, it wasn’t like that at all, because everyone we met was so kind to us.  Everyone!  And the practically all spoke English.  From the driver of city transportation, to the lady who sold us our ticket on the subway, to the man at the turnstyles who directed us to the right train, every soul we met in Stockholm was an ambassador of courtesy.  We were to find this throughout Scandinavia.

Well, we made it across the island where we made our connection to the little island and Gamla Stan, where we headed straight for the Royal Palace.  Today we were going to meet the King and the Queen of Sweden.  What an honor.  We walked in awe through the magnificent gardens with splendid palace walls facing us on all sides – all manned by uniformed royal guards.  We approached the huge front doors of the stronghold and waited for our greeting and announcement by the staff herald into the presence of the King and Queen.  Imagine our surprise when we were told that we were not expected and that the king could not see us.  There must be some mistake I said.  “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m Lindsey Stirling’s Dad!!!  But it was to no avail.  And after repeated pleas and urgings, and under the threat of arrest and confinement in the royal dungeon, we left the palace confines greatly disappointed.  There is always next time.

We consoled ourselves by strolling the streets, and browsing through the shops of Old Town nearby.  Diane bought a warm hat, for the cooler weather of Scandinavia and we found ourselves lunch – including the BEST CHEESECAKE I’VE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE.  And I decided to forgive the King and Queen.  I’m sure they’re as nice as everyone else here.

With the day wearing on we hiked through the city to the garden island to the Vasa Museum.  The Vasa was a warship commissioned by King Gustavus Adolphus II in 1628.  Massive in size and magnificent in appearance, it boasted firepower superior to any ship afloat – 64 cannons on three decks.  The Vasa was the pride of the King’s fleet and represented Sweden’s anticipated conquest of the seas.  On August 10, with the citizens of Stockholm lining the docks and shore and to the sounds of great pomp and celebration the Vasa was launched into the water, sailed 1,500 meters and sank to the bottom of the harbor.  It was very embarrassing!

Salvaged in 1961 after years of preservation and reconstruction efforts, the Vasa is almost 98% original.  It is awesome!  World over, there is no other historic artifact like it – a work of art and a triumph of discovery.

With the afternoon waning, Diane and I cut our exploration of Stockholm short and retraced our way back through the city, onto the subway, and to the appropriate bus to return to the Fryshuset Arena in time for Lindsey’s meet and greet and for the concert.  This time we watched the show from a more elevated view on a platform reserved for honored guests.  (It was dark so no one recognized us – or we might have been asked to leave.)

After watching the last show backstage, it was fascinating to see it come together from the audience point of view.  It is a great show, but having seen the united labors or the band, the dancers, the lighting, sound, staging, and costume people – as well as the matchless efforts and energy of Lindsey herself – I begin to appreciate it with new eyes.  Lindsey’s concert, like Lindsey herself, is a masterpiece.

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THE BALTIC CROSSING

On Sunday morning we were awakened by a universal flurry of activity on the bus.  Everyone was gathering up their critical belongings for a day long trip across the Baltic Sea.  We all scurried aboard the waiting Amorella, a massive 2500 passenger ferry, while the busses and the semi were secured below decks.  Diane and I found the way to our cabin, deep in the bowels of the 10-deck ship.  By the time we emerged topside again into the light of day, the 11 hour journey had begun.

I had always wanted to go on a cruise with Diane.  This excursion from Turku to Stockholm by way of the Åland Islands was the Baltic equivalent to the Love Boat.  The food was delicious, the scenery of hundreds of tiny green islands was beautiful, and the walks on the deck were – well, breezy, cold and wet.  Hey, what do you expect?  We’re in Scandinavia.  It was awesome!  We had a great time.

By the time we arrived in Sweden it was after dark.  The moment the ship docked, the luxury cruise was over. It was actually pretty comical.  The cleaning crews immediately swarmed over every hallway and into every cabin.  I had no idea that housekeeping employed that many people.  They were everywhere, with an unspoken attitude of, “Hope you enjoyed the cruise.  Please sail with Viking Lines again.  Now, get out!” And where the Lindsey Stirling team had climbed on board together, we disembarked like rats off a sinking ship.  (Pardon that expression.) Diane and I emerged onto the upper decks, searching for a familiar face.  We found Stev-o, looking abandoned, amidst the crowd on one of the stairway landings.  Clinging to each other for security we made our war to the gang plank together, hoping the others would do the same.

Miraculously, we found the busses not far from the dock, waiting for us.  We were the first to arrive.  Gradually, everyone else joined us, stumbling off the Amorella in small groups of twos or threes, looking like displaced refugees in search of a home.  And crawling back onto the bus again felt like coming home.  We drove the venue, parked for the night, and, since most of us had gotten a nap on the ship, occupied the evening in unrivaled silliness.  This is such a fun group of people.  Yes, we were home.

 

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THE ADVENTURE BEGINS — HELSINKI

There are few things more delightful than the anticipation of a 15 hour transatlantic flight in a sardine tin – even a very large sardine tin like a jumbo jet.  (It is noteworthy to point out that the increased size of today’s airliners has made very little impact on passenger comfort, since most of that increase in size has been occupied with an increased number of passengers.  That might not be true for someone sitting in the cock pit or flying first class.  Neither of those is me.)  But since most of our vacations have consisted of a few days at Rocky Point, Mexico or camping at Mount Graham, Diane and I were genuinely delighted to be going anywhere – especially to Europe.

And we were on our way to Europe.  We left on Friday morning and arrived on Saturday in Frankfurt, Germany.  We had lost a day in our travels east.  But with a little effort we succeeded in misplacing even more time.  We’re good at it.  We missed our connecting flight in Frankfurt and had to catch a later plane to Helsinki.  When we finally arrived in Finland, it was getting late.  We lost any opportunity to see the city, but our driver, John, who met us at the airport was kind enough to give us a motor tour of the Helsinki before it got dark.  There was a lot of construction on the outskirts.  I pointed out to him that it would be a very nice town, once they got it “Finished”.  He didn’t get it.  Humor.  It is a difficult cultural concept.  Actually, Helsinki was a beautiful town.  But what truly impressed me about John – and about everyone I met in Scandinavia – is how genuinely nice they were.  My introduction to Northern Europe was perfect.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  I loved the people here already!

As night enveloped the city we went to the theater venue, The Circus, to meet Lindsey and the  crew.  It was so good to see her and the rest of her team – Gavi, Drew, Stev-o, and Pete – as well as Erich and the production people.  They are really a choice bunch of professionals.

Lindsey’s show was awesome, on this, the first official night of the Lindsey Stirling 2014 European Tour.  She really is a consummate performer, though the house was a little crowded.  (The plane ride had prepared me for that.)  I ended up watching a lot of the show from backstage.  When it was over the entire stage was dismantled as quickly as possible and packed onto a semi-truck, while Diane and I nestled into our places on one of the two sleeper busses that were to take this tour through Europe.

That night I was exhausted.  We stayed up for a while, visiting, joking, reminiscing and in general, being silly, until gradually, everyone shuffled back to our births in the bus and crawled inside for a good night’s sleep.  The bus rumbled across the countryside to the southeast port of Turku 13 hours away.  I nestled into my covers in the bottom bunk, across the aisle from Diane.  The vibration of the bus on the road rocked me gently into a delicious sleep.  I was an official “roadie” dreaming of the adventures the next morning would bring.

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Master of High Technology

I was first introduced to computer science as a teenager in the late 1960’s. Enrolling in a Saturday class offered by a local junior college, I learned to use Fortran and the programming techniques that communicated in binary language via punch cards. Years later, during my first years in professional advertising, I was the first kid on the block to bring a computer home for the bargain price of $500. It was an industrial grade, dedicated word processor called the Pertec 2000, which occupied the space of a table top, weighed 40 pounds, and read data from two eight-inch disk drives in an ancient tongue known to us as CPM.
One would wonder, with my extensive background in computer science, why it is that I am not an icon in the high-tech industry today. The fault could lie with the Pertec 2000 itself, which proved to be such a workhorse, that I continued to use it well into the mid-90’s. (At that point in my career I really only needed word processor.) And while I was still typing away on Word Star, all the other boys and girl were moving up to PCs and laptops. All around me people were talking bits and baud rates, workstations and networks were becoming the order of the day, and memory storage capabilities seemed to be expanding at geometric rates. A new industrial revolution was underway.
By the time the Pertec 2000 finally succumbed to the dignified demise of irreparable maintenance (and donation to a museum), I emerged from my cocoon of knowledge and skill into a world in which I had been left woefully behind. I have never managed to catch up again.
Hence, the quandary of a timeless cliché, once illustrated by humorist Gary Larson. In the classic comic, a dog is pictured performing in a circus tent. He is riding a unicycle and balancing on a high wire, while juggling several balls in the air, with a fish bowl on top of his head and a cat hanging out of his mouth. The caption reads, “High above the hushed crowed, Rex tried to remain focused. Still he couldn’t shake one nagging thought. He was an old dog and this was a new trick.”
Welcome to my world.
Scan
The Pertec 2000, iron horse of the 1980s computer industry.

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Scan 1

The author, captured in a moment of high-tech fascination, while providing maintenance to the legendary Pertec 2000.

A FEW MOMENTS FROZEN IN TIME

The following photographs capture the essence of my fondest memories with three of the important women in my life – Jennifer, Lindsey, and Brooke.

  I call this picture, “Two Big Sisters and a Baby.” This was a huge event – the new kid on                  the block had just arrived home from the hospital.  (Can you identify each by name?)

I call this picture, “Two Big Sisters and a Baby.” This was a huge event – the new kid on the block had just arrived home from the hospital. (Can you identify each by name?)

  We loved to go camping – in spite of the expressions in this picture.                                                   This is my little stair-step picture, oldest to youngest.

We loved to go camping – in spite of the expressions in this picture. This is my little stair-step picture, oldest to youngest.

  One of my favorite photographs ever.  We took a picture like t                                                              this each Christmas.  And the girls got prettier every year.

One of my favorite photographs ever. We took a picture like t this each Christmas. And the girls got prettier every year.

   Leap ahead a few years.  By this time we had added Vladimir to the mix.  But                                    the Santa hats are still there.  (This is another one of our holiday traditions –                                    the annual stealing of the Ray’s Christmas tree.)

Leap ahead a few years.  By this time we had added Vladimir to the mix.  But the Santa hats are still there.  (This is another one of our holiday traditions – the annual stealing of the Ray’s Christmas tree.)

Another perfect addition to our family, Marina (left) poses with Lindsey and Brooke.  Jennifer and Vladimir weren’t on hand for this picture.  (We considered “photo shopping” them in.  But it wouldn’t have been the same.)

Another perfect addition to our family, Marina (left) poses with Lindsey and Brooke. Jennifer and Vladimir weren’t on hand for this picture. (We considered “photo shopping” them in. But it wouldn’t have been the same.)

STIRLING PIX

All in all, it’s quite a family.  Thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane with the Stirlings.

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GRATITUDE. . . AMIDST THE MARKETING

It has been said that all of us are only two or three people away from anybody in the world.  (It’s mind boggling how small our human universe has become.) And frankly, it would be a pleasure to have the endorsing nod of Rush or Oprah.  But it only takes me a moment’s consideration to realize that it is the honor of a lifetime to enjoy the approval and friendship of good people – like you.

Thank you, my friends for reading and enjoying my books. I may or may not ever hear from Glenn Beck or Larry King.  But I have heard from you – and that is reward enough.  I’m glad you’ve taken some pleasure from reading Persona Non Grata.

SJS and Matt

Avid fan of good literature, Matt Wright, sneaks a selfie with the author at recent book signing.

 

A Global “Thank You”, and a Local Invitation

It’s nice to have friends — and I have more than 1700 of them. Who would have thought, when I began collecting about a year and a half ago, that I would have met so many nice people in such a short time. So, I now have friends from France to the Philippines, from Japan to Germany, from Turkey to Tehran. I have friends in Italy, Russia, England, India, and China. My list of friends is a veritable United Nations of Facebook contacts. I have friends in a few places I cannot begin to pronounce, and at least a couple in locations so remote I don’t think they’ve been discovered yet.

So, when I say how much I appreciate the good wishes of my international assembly of internet acquaintances with regard to my book and my book signing — I truly mean it. The comment, “I would love to come on Saturday — but I’m in Zambezee”, still means a lot to me. But now I need a few of my less distant friends to respond with equal generosity. I’m talking about friends who live distant ports of call like Phoenix, or Gilbert, or Mesa.

Therefore, I announce for one last time — or almost the last time — that I will be at the Mesa Temple Deseret Book (144 S MESA DR) on Saturday, August 23, from 12 to 2 pm. I’ll be in place there, signing books, eating donuts, and giving away free stuff. I invite anyone to join me there. I’ll be waiting with a hearty embrace and a warm smile — all in the name of international friendship and shameless merchandising. See you at the store.Persona Non Grata