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Brooke Shaffer

Author, Ski Patroller, and Pasta-Eater Extraordinaire

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Thoughts on Media Universes, Pt. 2

The other day I wrote a little bit about media universes, what they are, why people like them, what they bring to entertainment, and so on.  My conclusion on the matter was a bit cynical and pessimistic.  While I'm not sorry about it, because I don't apologize for honesty, I went home that night feeling as though I hadn't addressed everything, and the biggest issue was the fate of single novels.  Is it possible to still write, read, and enjoy a single novel, feel as though you have come to a satisfying conclusion without lingering questions or other things that must be explored in order to wrap things up?

The simple answer is yes, though it takes a special author and a special story to really bring out that story.  I'm not saying that every book must be a series, but for a single novel to have the same impact as an extended series (understanding that this is basically all subjective opinion) it must take all the elements of a series and smoosh it down into one book.  Maybe it's three hundred pages, maybe six hundred.

These elements are universal with any fictional story: character development, setting and environments, and plotlines.

Character development tends to be more direct or obvious in a single novel, because there isn't always time to show scene after scene to demonstrate a particular trait.  This may be modified for mystery characters who can't be revealed right away (such as a whodunit mystery).  But character development that takes too long and waits until the very end of a novel can feel rushed and even out of character.

Setting, as you might remember from grade school, is time and place.  1830's Europe.  Civil War era America.  Ancient Egypt.  The environment is the feeling of the immediate setting, a dark hallway, a wide-open atrium, and so on.  In a novel or a series, there may be a bit of an info dump into order to describe the environment.  The advantage of a novel over a series here, is that it's easier for a reader to hold that mental image throughout the story, whereas a series may require a little refresher here and there (or a remodel, like the Wheel).  The problem, though, is that some novels seem to think that because it's a novel, an environment is less important.  While we probably don't need to know the history of a little convenience store briefly mentioned on page 128 and nowhere else, not crafting a well-defined environment can have a detrimental impact on the plot and even the characters.  If a reader can't understand the spatial relation between characters, especially in an action scene, the whole scene becomes meaningless.  People are going here and running there, but it's just a blank slate if time isn't taken to bring the reader into the environment.

Plot has pros and cons for both a novel and a series.  For the novel, events can happen at any proper speed and wrap up nicely at the end, tied off with a bow.  The series author must decide where the plot breaks.  Where does the novel and the series plot break?  For example, Time to Kill and Tick Tock have very distinct plots.  Windup and Stopwatch do kind of run into each other, but the break comes at the coup.

The biggest stumbling block for novels concerning plot is two-fold, a bit of a fine line.  On the one hand, some novels have so many plots and sub-plots, and they're so scattered, that there is no possible way that they can all come together at the end.  Some novels need to be series, or just serials, in order to contain it all.  Or some plots need to be removed. On the flipside, just sticking with a single, rigid plot can leave the rest of the story feeling dry, maybe make a mystery novel sound more like a nonfiction police textbook.

When you pick up a single novel, you want to find an intriguing plot, whatever your genre, lovable characters (whether it's a crush love or a love-to-hate), and you really want to be brought into the story and stand there in the environment.  A series takes these elements and draws them out over several books.  A universe develops these elements over multiple series.

So it's not a bad thing to write or read a single novel.  Like anything, it's about taste.  A series is not inherently better than a novel, nor is a novel inherently inferior because the whole story is contained within a single cover.  Personally, I greatly prefer series.  You may not care, or you may like novels.  But I don't think single novels will be going out of style any time soon.

Thoughts on Media Universes

Just to clarify right off the bat, this has nothing to do with the media as we understand it to be the news.  This has to do with media meaning music, TV, and especially movies.  The fun media that we like to consume in some fashion.

I actually thought about this with any seriousness last December when I was interviewing for the Author Next Door (National Writers' Series).  She was asking about how far the series was going to go and this and that.  And then, with the release of Of Saints and Sinners, I actually considered that I am building a universe, and that such things are becoming more and more common.

When I say a media universe, the first thing you may think of is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, Black Panther, Doctor Stranger, and so on.  Ten years, dozens of movies.  Even if you don't watch it, chances are, you've heard of it.  What makes it a universe is that each story is (typically) independent of each other, yet it follows a (loose) general timeline (Captain America comes after Iron Man but they aren't direct sequels).  And every so often, characters will cross over.

In the book world, my favorite example of this is The Books of History Chronicles by Ted Dekker.  You've got The Circle series, the Showdown series, and others.  Each series is independent, but they all revolve around the Books of History.

The Timekeeper Chronicles is very similar to this, though it's only just begun to blossom.  The Chivalrous Welshman will remain the backbone of events and can be read without the aid of other series.  Likewise, other series can be read by themselves and have a distinct beginning, middle, and conclusion.  Of Saints and Sinners is able to be read by itself, though it is much more fun to tie it into the rest of the universe.  In the future, there will be more series to read: The Hands of Time, Akari-Bearer, and at least one more single, just to name a few.

But I was thinking the other day, why do it?  It's a lot of time, both to write and to read, and it can also add up monetarily.  Why do we like media universes?  What is the goal?

I think the answer is both simple and complex (yeah, yeah, I know, good going, very insightful).  But when we break it down into basic elements, it makes the bigger picture easier to understand.

Why do people write books?
This is the first question.  Why write at all?  Non-fiction aside,most people write fiction simply to entertain, to escape.  And the basic elements of a book is a beginning, middle, and end to a plot.  This can come in a variety of forms, the hero's journey, the three act sequence, or something totally off the wall.  We meet characters and follow them on adventures.  Sometimes, books are written to e serials, that is, independent books that feature the same characters and may follow a typical plot structure but can be read in any order.  Examples might be the Doctor Who novels, or many children's books like Clifford the Big Red DogThe Chronicles of Narnia may be a series or a serial because, although it follows a loose linear timeline, the books can generally be read in any order.

When does a book become a series?
A book becomes a series when there is more action to be had beyond a simple beginning, middle, and end, that can't be contained by three to five hundred pages, or whatever it is.  That's when arcing becomes important.

Perhaps the most common and easiest to explain example is almost any TV show.  I'll use the ninth season of Doctor Who as an example.  Each episode was its own thing, with a bad guy to be defeated or puzzles to solve or whatever, but the overarching theme was figuring out the identity of Bad Wolf.  At the very end of the season, viewers discover that it is, in fact, Rose. (Sorry, but Season 9 was so long ago, if you don't know that by now, then too bad.)

Many series, whether visual or written, have an overarching plot involving the protagonist and antagonist and an ongoing conflict between them.  The series typically ends when the bad guy is defeated, whether through political maneuvering that takes more than four hundred pages to detail, or a physical confrontation that requires more time to make it believable and impactful on the reader.

When does a series become a universe?
I'd say a series becomes a universe when there are multiple series revolving around the same overarching plot or theme.  In the case of The Timekeeper Chronicles, the overarching theme is Timekeeping, the Akari, and a number of considerations when it comes to its impact on humanity socially, culturally, religiously, politically, and so on.  Each book contributes to this with its own plot adding into a larger plot theme for the series which connects with other series in the universe.

Why write a universe versus a series?
The first question should be why write a series, other than extending a particular plotline?  Often this has to do with emotional involvement, getting to know the characters in such a way that they become real people.  It's an investment.  You become friends or enemies with certain characters and want to see them succeed or fail.  With a series, you spend more time with the characters than you would with a single book, which is why a TV show might run for a bazinga—I mean, a bazillion seasons, but a movie might get only one or two sequels.  You'll spend hours upon hours upon days with a TV show character, versus only a few hours with a movie character.

A universe can allow for similar expansion and investment in more characters.  The Chivalrous Welshman centers around Tommen's viewpoint, although Stopwatch did detour from this quite a bit.  But with the added series opening up more viewpoints, like Walter in Of Saints and Sinners, it allows for, not only the development of themes, but greater depth of character and plot.  Future series will address various viewpoints of the Dispersal, something only alluded to in TKC.  And it provides character perspective from different walks of life.  Rifun and Cassius come from very different cultures with very different practices, different worldviews which a Westerner would consider bizarre and even foolish.  But to them, it's life.  Micah and Micaiah had a very unusual childhood and certain events absolutely defined them.

A novel may skim the surface of the water on a jet ski, maybe go snorkeling a little and see some interesting things, but a series takes you beneath the waves, to see and touch and swim with the fishes.  Universes may take you to multiple locations to see new things, or see old things in a new way.

So this all brings us back to the question of why universes are becoming so popular.  While I do believe that Marvel brought it front and center, I think the real reason is simply escape.  We want to become invested in something, in other people, in other people's problems, but without actually getting involved physically.  We want to explore all these great places and read about these people, but we don't want to actually get physically sucked in.  We want to know what happens, but we don't necessarily want to help.  And anyway, the end has already been written.  Something is going to happen.  We just get to read about it.

Yes, it's a cynical perspective, but one look at social media or the evening news would tell you why.  People suck, and because it's real, we are involved in some way.  But a book, a whole new universe where we just read about the problems, know that everything turns out all right in the end, that's what we want.  Maybe we don't want a stereotypical John Wayne plot, maybe we like Game of Thrones where no one is safe and everything is usually up in the air to some degree, but whatever the case, it's not ours.  The universe doesn't exist, not really.  The people don't exist.  The problems are fictional.  So we get extensive character development, multiple prolonged plots, and plenty of emotional investment from a variety of perspectives.  And none of it is real.

On the other hand, what if it was?

-Brooke Shaffer

Summer of Fun and Other Exciting Things!

And so, with the official release of Stopwatch, we kick off an excellent summer of fun!  Plenty of cool new things popping now or in the very near future.  Here's just a quick rundown of the new features available, starting with the biggest one: The Shop!

So, if you click on the "Shop" link there in the main navigation, you will be transported to a whole new world!  Not really.  But in this shop, you are free to order books and purchase sweet new swag merchandise, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, journals, and more.  You are even able to pre-order books more than thirty days in advance (like Of Saints and Sinners).  Shipping is available to all U.S. states and territories, and all of Canada.  If you have questions, check out the FAQ.

Also available, these on the Timekeeper Chronicles website, are an updated Time Agents page, giving you the details on the various ranks.  Training profiles are also being devised.  These are different from the standard character profiles, in that, the training profiles would be similar to what a Time Agent's record might look like in the Wheel.  Biographic details are absent, but you do get a basic list of abilities and such.  The second thing now available on the TKC website is a handy dandy Timeline.  Fascinating and clickable, it should help to straighten out a few things and let you see how characters and events relate to each other within the world, especially important as more books and series are released (did I say that out loud?).

Now, for other summer fun things, I want to take a poll of interest.  Leave your comments here or post on the Facebook page.  If you check out the Time Agents page on the TKC website, you'll see a bit where I'm going with this, trying to fill in all of the Regions and Districts and populate them with people.  Problem is, if I do it all myself, it gets difficult and boring, and all the people sound the same.

The idea here is that, using the release of Of Saints and Sinners as a launching point and running probably until Thanksgiving, opening up something like an Adopt-a-Character event.  You supply the name, rank, and a general training description of a Timekeeper or Harvester to populate the database.  While events and other things within the Timekeeper Chronicles are already pretty fixed in terms of primary and secondary characters, particularly interesting people may pop up in future books as tertiary characters and passing mentions.

It's just an idea, and details are still coming into focus, but let me know your thoughts, if you would be interested.

Other than that, good things are happening here, and I hope they are for you, too.  Have a nice summer, guys.

End transmission.

-Brooke Shaffer

Famous Coups, Part 4: England

The last (or second to last, possibly) coup that we're going to cover, is the infamous Gunpowder Plot.  Not familiar with it?  Well, is this familiar to you?

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot

The Gunpowder Plot can trace back to the mid sixteenth century, when King Henry VIII took control of the Church.  With the monarchy proclaiming itself the head of the Church, and the rise of the Protestant Church, English Catholics struggled to maintain their freedom.  Henry's successor, Elizabeth I, furthered the divide with her decree that anyone appointed to public or church office should swear fealty to the throne as head of the Church.

King James I was far more moderate, even tolerant, toward Catholics, and promised not to persecute any who would be quiet, mind their own business, and not cause trouble for the law.  He was also more in favor of exile than execution.  Nevertheless, King James was anxious about a Catholic assassination.

Regardless of his more moderate attitude, James did not completely eradicate Catholic persecution, and several assassination plots were uncovered before the Gunpowder Plot.  One of these was the Bye Plot.  It was crafted by Catholics, but also revealed by Catholics, and this was the only reason that James did not take a harder line with Catholics following the incident.

In 1604, James discovered that a rosary had been sent to his wife, Queen Anne.  Displeased, he ordered all Jesuits and Catholics out of the country.  On March 19, he gave a speech in which he reiterated his desire for peace, but only by profession of the true religion, that is, the Church of England.  The Catholics were to remain quiet and not increase in number within the country.  This set off another string of persecution against Catholics, sometimes violent.

The idea behind the Gunpowder Plot was to kill King James I and many of those on the Privy Council, in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as various judges and other nobles.  The conspirators would also kidnap his daughter Elizabeth.  The fate of his sons, Henry and Charles, would have to be improvised.

The plotters were Robert Catesby, John and Christopher Wright, Robert and Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham.  The first meeting, of only five of them, took place on May 20, 1604.  They thought they were going to finalize their plans and be ready by February 1605.

On June 9, Thomas Percy was appointed to a troop of bodyguards for the king.  He used this appointment to set up shop in London, with Guy Fawkes, under the pseudonym John Johnson, pretending to be his servant.  Parliament adjourned in July.

Through the fall, the conspirators rowed their stored gunpowder across the Thames from Catesby's residence in Lambeth.

On December 24, it was announced that Parliament would not be in session like normal over concerns of the plague.  It was reopened on October 3, 1605.

The delay between the opening of Parliament and the plot is mythologically attributed to the plotters digging a tunnel under the House of Commons.  No evidence has ever been found for such a tunnel, the prosecution for the later trial never presented any evidence for a tunnel, and conspirator confession to this tunnel came after only multiple torture sessions.

In June, Jesuit priest Oswald Tesimond told Father Henry Garnet that he had taken a confession from Catesby and thereby learned of the Gunpowder Plot.  They determined that the confession fell under the seal of the confessional, which meant it could not be repeated.

In July, Parliament was again delayed opening because of fears of plague, and the new date was set to be November 5.

36 barrels of gunpowder were brought into the undercroft beneath the House of Commons in July, but by August, it was discovered that it had decayed.  More barrels were brought over at the last minute.

Guy Fawkes was designated the one to light the fuses and escape across the Thames, while revolt in the streets would ensure the capture of James' daughter Elizabeth.

The problem came from the wives of the conspirators.  It is unclear that they were part of the conspiracy, but there is evidence to suggest that they had a good idea of what was going to happen.

Other concerns came up over other Catholics, and the conspirators came up with various measures to keep certain members out of Parliament the day of the explosion.  One of these was Lord Monteagle, who was also Francis Tresham's brother-in-law.  On October 26, Monteagle received an anonymous letter.

My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.

Monteagle did not discern the letter's meaning immediately and went to several advisors for interpretation.  Word got back to Catesby of possible betrayal.  Because of Monteagle's relation to Tresham, the conspirators confronted Tresham.  The man convinced them that he did not write the letter, but urged them to abandon the plot anyway.  They refused.

On November 1, the letter was shown to the king who immediately became convinced that it referenced fire or an explosion of some form.  The Privy Council declared that a search of Parliament would be conducted both above and below.

Two accounts of the search exist.  The king's version states that the first search was conducted on November 4.  They discovered Fawkes in the undercroft with the gunpowder, disguised as a massive pile of firewood.  Still acting as John Johnson, he stated that the firewood belonged to his master, Percy.  The search party reported their findings to the king.  Percy was already known as a potential Catholic agitator and, at his name, James ordered a more thorough search of the building.

The search party returned to the undercroft late that night.  Guy Fawkes was there in a cloak and hat.  He was discovered with a pocketwatch, several slow matches, and touchwood.  The barrels of gunpowder were also discovered.  He was arrested and taken to the king on November 5.  He maintained his identity as John Johnson.

As news of John Johnson's arrest spread through London, the other conspirators took the hint and scattered.  An arrest warrant was issued for Percy as well.

A letter addressed to Guy Fawkes was found on his person, but "John Johnson" maintained that it was simply one of his aliases and he acted alone.  His steadfastness impressed even the king who likened it to a Roman resolution.

Questioning of other servants and noblemen revealed Catesby, Rookwood, Keyes, Wynter, John and Christopher Wright, and Grant as co-conspirators.  Fawkes, still acting as Johnson, stubbornly insisted that he acted alone.  The king ordered him taken to the Tower of London and tortured.  The details are sketchy, but he was for sure subjected to the rack.  On November 7, Fawkes' resolve broke and he confessed everything.

Only two confessions were recorded in full, Fawkes' and Wintour's.

In his confession, Thomas Bates also implicated Father Tesimond in the conspiracy.  He stated that he had also visited Father Garnet on November 7 to tell both priests of the plot's failure.  Garnet, Tesimond, and another priest, Gerard, were implicated as wanted men.  Tesimond and Gerard managed to escape the country and lived out their days in freedom.  Garnet, however, was captured.

At the trial, Attorney General Edward Coke declared the plot invented by the Jesuits, citing Catesby's confession to Father Garnet and Oswald Tesimond.  Each of the condemned, said Coke, would be drawn backwards to his death, by a horse, his head near the ground. He was to be "put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both". His genitals would be cut off and burnt before his eyes, and his bowels and heart then removed. Then he would be decapitated, and the dismembered parts of his body displayed so that they might become "prey for the fowls of the air".

Father Garnet was questioned on nearly two dozen occasions.  When threatened with torture, he merely responded, "threats are only for boys."  While speaking to another prisoner, he let slip that he had spoken to Tesimond who had told him of Catesby's confession.  He was charged with high treason and executed.

Digby, Wintour, Rookwood, and Keyes, along with three other prisoners, were all hanged, then cut down before they died.  While still conscious, they were castrated, disemboweled, and drawn and quartered.  Fawkes was to suffer the same fate, but instead jumped from the gallows and broke his neck, saving himself the agony of the remainder of the sentence.

So, kids, that's today's fun history lesson.  Yeah, it's May, but remember, remember, the fifth of November.

-Brooke Shaffer

Pre-Orders and Announcements

Good news, all, pre-orders for Stopwatch are now available!  Yay!  You can order them from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

And for those of you who have been paying some semblance of attention, you may have guessed that there may be more awesome things coming down the pipe.  More than just books or Internet goodies.  I'm talking about, you guessed it, merch!

Merchandise is fun.  It's fun to design, fun to buy and sell, fun to wear or do other things with it.  Starting June 7, you will have the opportunity to buy Timekeeper merch!  There is going to be an assortment of posters, T-shirts, a few novelty items, and at least one thing that might make you go, "Seriously?"  Merch will be available through this website, and I'm considering putting it on the Timekeeper website as well.  All products are made in the USA, some of them right here in Michigan.  Show your loyalty, support a local artist and homemade goods.

That is all.

-Brooke Shaffer

Updates and Busyness and Pre-Orders and Merch

So, this is a list of things that are going on or that I am currently working on, in no particular order.

  • Stopwatch is due out June 7.  Yes, I know, the pre-orders are a tad late.  That's my fault, but stuff was going on and life got in the way, as it usually does.  With any luck, pre-orders should be available by the end of the week.
  • On that note, I am trying to work out a system where pre-orders can be submitted earlier than just 30 days ahead of time.  That's the current going rate at Amazon for me, which I think is kind of lame.  I want to be able to push it to at least 90 days.  If I can get that accomplished in the next couple weeks, you should be able to pre-order Of Saints and Sinners as Stopwatch is coming hot off the press.  I think that would be kind of neat.  No promises, but I will keep you all in the loop.
  • I am also working on filling in some of the information on the TKC website.  Information and fun stuff is a little slower in coming there, I know, I'm guilty.  Still working on the interactive map (Europe has a lot of countries).  With the release of Stopwatch, there will also be a Timekeeper Timeline for you to browse through as well.  It will provide a little perspective when talking about this thing or that date or such and such an event.  With the Timekeeper universe beginning to expand, it should help to organize a few things for you.
  • And to that end, for the studious among you, the timeline should provide a few interesting tidbits and trivia, a few minute spoilers for upcoming books.  Nothing huge or essential to plots or anything, but something to maybe change the way you perceive certain characters.  Also, keep in mind that information on the TKC is cumulative, so if you start to fall behind, you can either choose to keep up vaguely, or...avoid at all costs.

And that's that.  I think.  Let's see...pre-orders, OSaS, information on TKC, the timeline...yeah, I think that's about it.  I don't think I'm forgetting anything.  Ah well, if I am, I'm sure I can announce it later, such as when the Stopwatch pre-orders are available.

-Brooke Shaffer

Famous Coups, Part 3: Ancient Israel

Time to go back, way, waaaaay back, to what may be the oldest verifiable coup in history, from the Israelites.

The account is briefly recorded in 1 Kings, Chapter 16.

Elah Reigns in Israel

In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years. But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah, 10 Zimri came in and struck him down and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place.

11 When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he struck down all the house of Baasha. He did not leave him a single male of his relatives or his friends. 12 Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, 13 for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel to sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols. 14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

Zimri Reigns in Israel

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days in Tirzah. Now the troops were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, 16 and the troops who were encamped heard it said, “Zimri has conspired, and he has killed the king.” Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp. 17 So Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. 18 And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king's house and burned the king's house over him with fire and died, 19 because of his sins that he committed, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin. 20 Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and the conspiracy that he made, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

That's nice and all, but let's take a look at a few things of significance which some studious people have been kind enough to point out.

  1. In the original Hebrew, Zimri is called an " 'ebed " or "slave servant."  This differs from a "mesharet" or "free servant" referring to servants who freely served and ministered to others, most notably to the kings of Israel, including David and Jehoshaphat.  Therefore, it is notable that a "slave servant" is elevated to such a position that he commands half the chariots.
  2. Zimri is not named as part of a family line (Zimri, son of Steve, son of Bob, son of David, etc.).  There is a Biblical account of a man of the Tribe of Simeon named Zimri, and another of Zerah having a son named Zimri, but in this instance, it may be that Zimri was not an Israelite at all.  Others speculate that he could be of the Tribe of Judah.
  3. Zimri is mentioned again, about a hundred years later chronologically, in 2 Kings Chapter 9, Jezebel speaking to Jehu.
    1. 31 And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?”
  4. King Elah is a party king who enjoys food and drink a little too much.  In fact, it is recorded that while his men are out fighting the Philistines on the frontlines, he's out, ahem, doing other things.
  5. At this time, Israel is a divided country.  Israel is to the north, and Judah is the south.  In the time it takes Judah to go through one king, Israel goes through seven, three of them in the space of a month!
  6. Similarly, King Elah was facing a military alliance between Israel and the Arameans, but he was usually too busy drinking to give it much thought.
  7. At the time, the army was far away at a city called Gibbethon, while Elah and Zimri were safely in Tirzah.  This meant that there was no one to defend the king if something were to happen.  When the army heard of what transpired, they got together and named Omri king.  They marched on Tirzah.  When Zimri saw them coming, he burned down the palace with himself inside.

So, that's today's history lesson, one from ancient history.

-Brooke Shaffer

Famous Coups, Part 2: Serbia

Continuing the series on famous coups in history, let's look at one which may have actually contributed to the start of World War I.

Serbia gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in the Serbian Revolution, beginning in 1804 with bloody clashes that would last more than a decade until a ceasefire was reached in 1817.  Serbia was officially recognized as a state in 1830, and the first Constitution was drafted in 1835.  Serbia actually became suzerain, that is, Serbia became a tributary or vassal state to the Ottomans.

Serbia's monarchy was split primarily between two dynasties, the Obrenović and the Karađordević, as well as their various supporting houses and political factions.  These dynasties were supported by very different foreign interests.  The Obrenović were pro-Austrian, and the Karađordević were pro-Russian.

In 1868, Prince Mihailo Obrenović was assassinated, and his cousin Milan was named the new prince.  Milan was a very unpopular ruler and not liked by the people.  His popularity declined even more when he declared himself king in 1882, and further after a series of humiliating military defeats.  Furthermore, he favored Austrian sponsorship, while his wife was pro-Russian.  Milan was also an unfaithful husband, and the king and queen finally separated, even divorcing though it was declared illegal.

On March 6, 1889, Milan suddenly abdicated the throne to his son, Alexander.  No satisfactory reason was ever given, and Milan retired to Paris.

With Alexander too young to rule, a Regency was installed.  These regents set up a radical, pro-Russia government.  In 1891, King Alexander and Tsar Alexander III met to secure an alliance, Russia promising to look out for Serbian interests in Old Serbia and Macedonia.

Soon after, with the death of one of the ruling regents, discord came about in the Regency as control was shifted from the Radical Party to the Liberal Party.  Fights broke out until King Alexander simply had all of the regents imprisoned.  He then invited his father, ex-King Milan, back to Serbia.  This angered the Radicals and they moved into opposition.

King Alexander discarded the Constitution of 1888 and instead reverted to the Constitution of 1869.  He then took a trip to Vienna to attempt to keep friendship with Austria.  This did not go over well with the Serbian people.

In 1897, Milan was named Supreme Commander of the Active Army.  Attempts were also made to find a suitable princess for Alexander to wed, though he had secretly been having an affair with his mother's lady-in-waiting, Draga.

In 1899, with the government encroaching more and more in daily Serbian life, as well as increasingly unpopular policies from the throne, an assassination attempt was made on Milan.  Milan struck back at the Radicals behind the assassination attempt.  But the attempt provided an opportunity for Alexander to get his father out of the way, and he sent Milan and the Prime Minister to foreign lands, one to discuss a contract with Austria-Hungary, and one to allegedly arrange a marriage with the German princess.  Once the two were gone, Alexander announced his engagement to Draga, his mother's former lady-in-waiting.  This did not go over well with anyone, as Draga was not only 12 years older than Alexander, but she was a commoner.  Milan especially disapproved of the marriage and never returned to Serbia, dying in Vienna in 1901.  The wedding took place in 1900, with Tsar Nicholas Romanov of Russia as the best man.

After the death of Milan, Alexander, as a gesture of good will, pardoned all political prisoners.  He drafted a new constitution which made Serbia's government bicameral and included representatives from all the major parties, most notably the Radical Party and the Liberal Party.  Alexander also started a rumor that his queen was pregnant, though numerous other rumors proclaimed her to be sterile.

Russia greatly disapproved of the new government and constitution, and the major political parties also disapproved of it.  When it was discovered that the queen was not pregnant, many also complained that the king was only hurting the international reputation of Serbia.

Seven army officers, known in history as Black Hand, made a plot to assassinate the king and queen.  Their first attempt was a knife dipped in potassium cyanide, but the royal couple never showed up to the party where the attempt was to take place.  Details were made known, and the officers decided to bring in other political allies to aid them.  Messages were sent, officers and politicians looking for a replacement for the throne.  Neither Austria nor Russia were willing to get involved, for fear of retaliation from the other.

Prince Mirko of Montenegro was one candidate for the throne, but it was discovered that Peter Karađordević could be installed instead with no obstacles.  Peter was unwilling to go along with the plot and suggested that the couple be forced to abdicate and go into exile.  The officers disagreed, saying that it could trigger a civil war.

After a second failed attempt, it was decided that the killing should take place at the palace itself, and more officers, including the Palace Royal Guard, got involved.  Details of the plan leaked, but Alexander dismissed them as fantasy.

On the night of May 28, all the conspirators arrived in Belgrade, separating into five groups to innocuously enjoy themselves at various pubs around town.  The head of the Royal Guard sent word to the assassins once the royal couple had fallen asleep.  Several of the groups surrounded the Prime Minster's house, as well as the houses of other groups loyal to the king.

The gates to the palace were unlocked at 0200 on May 29.  While some of the royal guard were involved, most were not, and secrecy was paramount.  Even so, after two hours of searching, the assassins still hadn't found the king and queen.  The head of the conspirators, Apis, saw someone running down a flight of stairs.  Thinking it to be the king, he gave chase alone.  In the ensuing gunfight, it was discovered that the man was one of the king's loyal guardsmen.  Apis was shot three times and left to die, though he did survive.

Another conspirator was also captured and ordered to speak under threat of being killed.  He was given ten minutes, and he waited that ten minutes in silence.

The rest of the group believed the attempt had failed.  According to one version of events, they again entered the royal bed chamber where one of the officers discovered a hidden door, behind which the royal couple was hiding.  According to another version, they were hiding in the queen's vast closet.  A third version states they were hiding in a secret passage that led directly to the Russian embassy.

The king and queen were brutally murdered, their bodies mutilated and tossed from a second-story window into a pile of manure.

It was the thirty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of Prince Mihailo.

Peter Karađordević was named King of Serbia in 1903, as Peter I.  Members of the conspiracy and assassination were appointed to various positions in the government.  Austria and Russia both condemned the assassinations, and even allied to diplomatically boycott Serbia, while a number of nations imposed sanctions.  This prompted Peter I to remove the conspirators from court, though he gave them grand positions elsewhere.

Life in Serbia returned to normal.  Not wishing to oppose the Black Hand which got him into power, Peter I was a king of minimal influence in politics.

It is believed that members of Black Hand were responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus setting off World War I.  Assassination attempts against Black Hand members were made, though they were taken to trial.  Some were executed.  Others, like Apis, who had taken three bullets, remained in prison but were eventually released after World War II.

Famous Coups, Part 1: Madagascar

Seeing how the big issue at the end up Windup and throughout Stopwatch is going to be the coup and overthrow of the Hands, I thought it would be interesting to look at a few real life coups.  This week's episode is, fittingly enough, Madagascar.  And we will begin with the 2001 elections.

In 1999, Marc Ravalomanana was elected as mayor of Madagascar's capital city Antananarivo and held the position until 2001 when he announced he would be running for president.  He claimed to have won the seat against Didier Ratsiraka (who himself had launched a coup in 1975) but there was never a clear majority vote and no run-off was ever held.  Not all nations recognized Ravalomanana as president right away, but he held the seat, his supporters and the military wresting control from Ratsiraka who continued to cry foul.

On November 18 2006, retired General Andrianfidisoa (also called Fidy), declared Ravalomanana unfit to rule and attempted to inspire a military coup, setting up a base of operations at the Ivato Airport in the capital city.  Ravalomanana was in France at the time.  Upon his return, his plane had to be diverted from Antananarivo to Mahajanga.  There were reports of gunfire at the airport the same day, with one soldier killed and another wounded.

Fidy was attempting to run in the presidential elections that year, but was denied, saying he had not paid the appropriate deposit to have his name listed on the ballot.  Fidy decried Ravalomanana as authoritarian and the government unconstitutional.  On November 22, Fidy had received the backing of 14 other presidential candidates, but did not win the election.

When forces were dispatched to arrest Fidy shortly after the initial coup, they found the airport camp abandoned and he was not at home.  Fidy remained elusive until December 12, when he was captured in a hotel room.  His lawyers maintained that his intentions had been misinterpreted, that he was not attempting a coup or any overthrow of the government, but simply wished to alert Ravalomanana to the situation of the armed forces.  He was sentenced to four years in prison.

But that's not all, folks!

In 2007, Andry Rajoelina was elected mayor of Antananarivo.  He and President Ravalomanana did not get along, and tension quickly escalated between the two as the president enacted a number of policies Rajoelina did not agree with, including plans to lease parts of the island to a Korean company.

In 2008, Ravalomanana shut down several major TV stations and other broadcasting services for planning to air an interview with former president Didier Ratsiraka.

Rajoelina called for a series of protests in January of 2009, including all TV and radio stations to shut down, for everyone to stay home and not go to work (creating ville morte, "ghost town"), and even for the military to ignore orders and stay home.  Ravalomanana, who was in South Africa at the time, cut his trip short and returned to Madagascar to re-establish order, denouncing the protests as a coup d'etat.

In February of 2009, support for Rajoelina began to decline and his calls for protest were met with fewer participants.  He announced on Feb. 3 that he was setting up his own government and called for Ravalomanana's resignation by the 7th.  The High Constitutional Court said he had no power to set himself up as president, nor depose the current president, as it was unconstitutional.  He was removed from his position as mayor.  Rajoelina protested this, saying he would face arrest if necessary.

On February 7, Rajoelina and his supporters, about 20,000 of them, marched on the Presidential Palace, past the barricades.  Palace guards fired live rounds into the crowd.  The death toll was estimated to be about 130, though it is disputed.

The actions of the palace guards against the people swung momentum back in Rajoelina's favor as he declared that he would serve his full term as president.

On February 19, Rajoelina's supporters took over several governmental ministries, including the Minister of the Interior.  These new appointees and as many as 50 supporters were later arrested by Ravalomanana's forces.

Ravalomanana and Rajoelina met for peace talks on February 21, and again every day until the 25th when Ravalomanana did not show.  Rajoelina withdrew shortly after, vowing to continue the struggle and remain the people's president.

More protests in March of 2009 turned deadly, and security forces attempted to arrest Rajoelina but were unsuccessful as he had taken refuge in the French Embassy.

On March 8, 2009, Soldiers at Camp Capsat near Antananarivo mutinied against the high military commanders, objecting to the use of deadly forces against protesters.  In response to this, General Rasolofomahandry informed President Ravalomanana that the political parties had 72 hours to figure things out or else he would be assuming control of the government.  The general was subsequently fired.  This also prompted the resignation of the Defense Minister.  Ravalomanana appointed a new general and new defense minister.  The minister was loyal to Ravalomanana, but the general declared that the army would remain neutral.

On March 13, the chief of military police sent tanks against the presidential palace.  Rajoelina gave the president four hours to voluntarily resign.  Ravalomanana refused and instead called for a referendum.  Rajoelina rejected this proposal and called for Ravalomanana's arrest.

On March 16, the presidential palace and the central bank were seized by the military.  Rajoelina declared himself president.

On March 17, Ravalomanana was forced to hand over power and authority to Rajoelina.  He fled into exile in Swaziland.

On March 25, the Madagascar Navy called for Rajoelina's resignation and even prosecution, saying that he had paid and bribed military officials to support him.  The Navy also stated that it wanted no interference from other countries.

Over the coming days, Ravalomanana's supporters called for peace talks and for Rajoelina to return power to Ravalomanana.  These protests turning violent and force was needed to break them up.  Eventually, it was decided that the two parties would be invited for talks mediated by a third party.  At these talks, it was decided that a constitutional referendum would be help in September, with presidential and parliamentary elections held the next year.

Rajoelina's government put off the elections until 2013.  The new constitution declared that those who had not lived in Madagascar for the last six months could not run for president, which effectively excluded all former presidents who were living in exile, including Ravalomanana and Ratsika.  Finally, the elections were set for October of 2013.  The international community demanded that Ravalomanana and Rajoelina both withdraw their names from candidacy, which they did.  Hery Rajaonarimampianina won the election and was installed as president in 2014.

In 2018, both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina ran for president in the election.  Both claimed victory.  Rajoelina was eventually declared the victor and he assumed control in 2019.

So there's your history lesson for today, folks.

-Brooke Shaffer

Ellis Island When?

SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

So, in reading Windup, if you are any kind of history buff or just a Google guru, you will know that Ellis Island did not open until 1892. Walter arrived in America decades before, yet he still tells Tommen that he came through Ellis Island.

Some might point to Castle Clinton (also called Castle Garden). It was opened in 1812 to defend New York harbor during the War of 1812. It changed hands within the government multiple times before being commissioned as an immigrant reception center in 1855.

But Walter came over earlier than that. So, what was his experience like?

In 1847, New York (city and state), together with various immigrant groups, sought to regulate immigration, to keep track of who was coming in, where from, what skills they had, and to prevent disease from overtaking the cities. Walter, because he was alone and unskilled, may have stayed in a boardinghouse as a sort of temporary quarantine, all the while pestered by shady employers looking for cheap labor.

How does this explain his Ellis Island bit then?

So, when Walter emerged from the cave, it was 1923. Ellis Island was still processing immigrants (it did not see a reduction in workload until the following year). In having to build a new life, Walter had to say that he came through Ellis Island, as it would make sense for a new timeline. Because he was still coming to grips with his new reality where he'd jumped 70 years, he had to constantly practice on his new life as if he'd really lived it, which included the lie about going through Ellis Island. His anxiety over telling Tommen the truth understandably resulted in a few slips and inadvertent un-truths.

Castle Garden and Ellis Island are still the two most well-known immigration centers, certainly the only ones of their kind. Arriving in America in the late 1990's would be about as exciting as his immigration in the 1850's before Castle Garden. Any time he was asked about it, he would simply state the year he came over and avoid details. Therefore, his anxiety and the truth plus his drilled memory about his real versus false immigration experience got all tangled up until he mistakenly stated that he came through Ellis Island. The full truth of his experience is revealed in Of Saints and Sinners, coming out in September.

-Brooke Shaffer

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