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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…

THE FICTION THAT CAME TRUE

Like the Russian – Crimean invasion, the most renown maritime disaster of all time also lays claim to the notoriety of having been foretold by the fiction of its time.  Here’s the story.

“A floating palace sailed from Southampton in 1898 on her maiden voyage.  It was the largest and grandest liner ever built, and rich passengers savored its luxury as they journeyed to the United States.  But the ship never reached its destination: Its hull was ripped open by an iceberg, and it sank with a heavy loss of life.

“That liner existed only on paper, [and] in the imagination of a novelist named Morgan Robertson.  The name he gave to his fictional ship was the Titan, and the book’s title was Futility.

“Both the fiction and the futility were to turn into terrifying fact. Fourteen years later a real luxury liner set out on a similar maiden voyage.  It too was laden with rich passengers.  It too rammed an iceberg and sank; and, as in Robertson’s novel, the loss of life was fearful because there were not enough lifeboats.  It was the night of April 14, 1912.  The ship was the RMS Titanic.

“In many other ways. . . the Titan of Robertson’s novel was a near duplicate of the Titanic.  They were roughly the same size, had the same speed ad the same carrying capacity. . . Both were ‘unsinkable.’  And both sank in exactly the same spot in the North Atlantic.

“But the strange coincidences do not end there.  The famous journalist W.T. Stead published, in 1892, a short story that [also] proved to be a preview of the Titanic disaster.  Stead was a spiritualist: He was also one of the 1,513 passengers who died when the Titanic plunged to the bottom of the ocean.”

Strange Stories, Amazing Facts, p.406

I told you!  Amazing!  Tomorrow, one more Persona Non Grata-like world event will bear witness that time and fate are governed by coincidence.  But then again, I don’t believe in coincidence, do you?

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FATEFUL FORECAST

Persona Non Grata’s prediction of the Russian invasion of Crimea was impressive by any measure.  But it is not the first time a world event has been mysteriously foretold.

In 1964, paranormal author, Frank Edwards reported this story.

“In Owensville, Indiana, the citizens were puzzled one winter morning to find a cryptic message painted in huge letters on the sidewalk in front of the public grade school. The message said simply: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

People commented on the message.  But they never knew who put it there – or why.  It was really nothing to get excited about at the time it occurred; for the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor never took place until two years later. . . to the day.”

                                                                                                                           Strange World, p.120

Well, what do you think?  Weird!  But I told you it has happened before.  We’ll have more tomorrow.

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JOURNEY’S END — LEIPZIG

This was our last soothing ride on the slumber bus.  When we awoke in Leipzig on Saturday morning we were greeted with the news that the night was not so relaxing for our entire company.  While both busses arrived at the venue destination without incident, the eighteen wheeler carrying the stage, costumes, props, most of the instruments, as well as the lighting and sound equipment veered off the road and flipped over en route.  The drivers had escaped without serious injury.  But no one had any idea how damaged the trailer’s contents would be – or even when it would arrive.

I’m not sure if anyone really understands the effort that goes into one of Lindsey’s concerts.  (I know I didn’t.)  The set up and testing takes all day – and that’s when the equipment is all in operating condition.  When the truck did arrive, battered and crushed from its ordeal, there was no time to evaluate and replace the equipment, let alone set it up.  Tonight was going to be an interesting show.

Just to unwind, the on-stage talent took a walk in the nearby park on Lake Auensee.  We went with them.  Taking a stroll with Lindsey and the rest of this team is an adventure.  We tried to feed the ducks, but they didn’t respond to us much because we didn’t speak German.  At noontime, everyone returned to the venue to see what could be salvaged and refit of the show.

This left Diane and I to entertain ourselves on our own on this, our final day in Germany.  After our escapades in Hamburg, we were reluctant to wander too far off the beaten path in Leipzig.  So we took a sauntered leisurely through the streets of this corner of town, leaving a trail of bread crumbs behind us to ensure that we could find our way back.  It was a simple day.  Narrow, winding streets, lush undergrowth off the roadsides, and a little Lutheran church – Gnadenkirche — dating back to the 12th century.

We came back early for meet and greet, and to reserve for ourselves a place, standing in the center of the balcony, amidst the throngs that were arriving early for Lindsey’s concert.  What they saw there in Haus Auensee was a spectacle in itself.  Without costumes, without stage set, using rented sound equipment, a bare minimum of lights, and borrowed instruments, and salvaging a few props from the wrecked truck, Lindsey Stirling and company put on a show that no one who saw it should ever forget.  Stev-o and Pete danced their hearts out, Gavi and Drew played with all the energy they had, and Lindsey gave the performance of her life – leaping and twirling in a pieced together costume and playing her reliable ‘Excalibur’ with flawless intensity.  It was a miracle of a show, highlighting that indefinable quality of “showmanship” that separates a mere presentation of talent from a true work of art.  Lindsey has that quality.

As the crew packed up to go that night and the caravan prepared to proceed on to Poland, it was time for Diane and I to say good-bye.  Erich, the tour manager, had taken good care of us. He’s good at it.  The tour “Dad”, he takes good care of Lindsey.  They all take good care of Lindsey, watching over her like a family of big brothers – (and one sister, McKenzie).  The bus drove us to our hotel on the outskirts of the Leipzig airport.  Everyone climbed out to bid us farewell, with hugs, smiles and a tear or two.  I’ve got to think they were glad to get rid of these two vagabond roadies who latched onto the 2014 Lindsey Stirling European Tour.  But they gave no sign of it.  Everyone had been so kind.  It was a great vacation – the experience of a lifetime.

We slept well, but without the now familiar reverberation of the bus and her wheels on the pavement to massage us in our slumber.  In the morning we were greeted by a waiting taxi and dropped off at the airport where, a short time later, we began our day-long journey home.  We followed the sunset for 15 hours, so it never got dark as we hopped from Leipzig to Frankfurt to Los Angeles, and finally home to Phoenix.

As we traveled I sighed with mingled contentment and exhaustion.  Every holiday must come to an end.  And a small sincere part of me was glad to be getting home and anxious to return to the seminary classroom on Monday.  But, closing my eyes, another portion of me still strolled the cobble-paved streets of old Europe, or climbed the rocks on the frozen cliffs of Norway.  Fond memories enveloped me – images of bewildered travelers delightedly embraced in the friendship of kind strangers, of quiet moments sitting in hallowed halls of worship, bathed in the Spirit of God, and of two parents, standing in the midst amidst the cheering crowd of a rock concert, chanting with the fans the name of their favorite superstar.  Thank you everyone for a great adventure.

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LOST IN HAMBURG

We left Copenhagen after midnight and spent a long night traveling by bus and ferry southward. In the morning we woke up in Hamburg, Germany, inland on the Elba River.

Diane and I received a carefully articulated list of directions from Jan Sven to the interesting sights of the City.  After a short walk through the streets, our course carried us by train to the center of town at Jungfernstieg, where we planned to catch local tourist transportation to see the city.  We managed to catch the double-decker Stadtrundfahrt to get the panoramic view of Hamburg.

Frankly, there isn’t much of old Hamburg to see.  As Nazi Germany’s major port, it became a prime target of destruction during the Second World War. The Allied bombers were very effective.  About all that was left of the original city was the Speicherstadt – the old storage warehouses down beside the harbor, and a small cramped district of brick structures nearby.  Diane and I took a leisurely walk around the area and ate at the Haus Der Bretagne, looking forward to some genuine “Hamburger” cuisine.  The food was delicious, but, of course, “The House of Brittany” was a creperie, serving the fare of Northern France.  So much for sampling the German culture.

When time came for us to return, the language barrier itself made it difficult to retrace our steps.  Everyone we met was very nice, but very few of them spoke English.  It took us a while to find our way back to the train station in Jungfernstieg, where we wandered for what seemed like an hour to relocate the express that would take us back to Littenkamp, where we had started from.

We were extremely grateful when we stumbled back into the Sporthalle on the outskirts of Hamburg, where Lindsey was performing in the evening.  It was a magnificent venue, and had to be.  That night we reserved a place on the platform where the lighting and sound crews were poised to run the show.  They were the best seats in the house – where we were surrounded by more than 6,000 enthusiastic fans who came to witness the spectacle of Lindsey Stirling, the Hip Hop Violinist.  It was the largest live audience of her career.  What a triumph.  What a night.

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WANDERING THE CAPITOL of DENMARK IN SEARCH OF A DANISH

After the concert in Oslo, the entire crew was pretty tired.  Obviously, no one was more exhausted than Lindsey.  Diane and I were well worn ourselves.  It was good to crawl into my little berth on the bus again and to be soothed to sleep by the soft rumble of the engine and the rocking of the wheels on the road.

It was a several hours’ overland drive south to Copenhagen, so it was a good rest.  I struggled up in the middle of the night – as had become my custom – to shuffle to the front of the bus, gaze out the huge front windshield, and visit briefly with Jan Sven.  But I quickly got tired again and traipsed back to bed.

In the morning we were in fabled Copenhagen with a day at our disposal to see the sights.  Jan Sven was kind enough to give us some walking directions into the center of town.  We wandered far further than two little Americans should be allowed to go by themselves.  But we followed our directions closely until we discovered Tivoli Gardens, (the 1840’s amusement park that was the inspiration for Disneyland).  With perfect timing we discovered that the park had closed for the summer.  But luckily, the gardens were reopening – tomorrow.  Diane took a picture of me standing outside the front gate.  We will add it to the photos of other theme parks I have been unable to get into.

tivoli8

Ducking out of the pedestrian traffic, we found a run-down little part of town — a perfect preservation of the Old World, with cobbled streets under our feet and window boxes filled with flowers high overhead.  When we emerged from the crowded streets of little shops and homes we found ourselves looking up at the object of our travels – The Church of Our Lady.  (Everyone had told me I just had to see the statue of the ‘Little Mermaid’ in Copenhagen Harbor.  But I had seen the movie.  I was far more anxious to see something else.

134px-Thorvaldsen_Christus

Torvaldsen’s ‘Christus’ sculpted in 1838 is considered by many to be “the most perfect statue of Christ in the world.”  I’ve admired it all my life and longed to see it for years.  I never thought I would have the opportunity.  Standing at the altar end of the chapel and flanked by statues of the twelve apostles standing along the walls, it was one of the most reverently magnificent images I have ever beheld.  We stayed until the church clock rang at 4.

As we made our way through the streets back to the venue, we searched vigilantly for a Danish – after all we were in Denmark.  We finally discovered some, bought everything that looked good and hurried back to Falconer Salen by the time the events of the evening began to take place.  We sat with the fans in the center front of the balcony with a perfect view of the stage.

Lindsey’s performance never gets old.  It is a delight to see it again and again.

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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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