by Greg Hickey
Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Parabellum by Greg Hickey, and a link to order it from Amazon.
We are all familiar with the conventional wisdom about light and dark, struggle and triumph, failure and success. “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light,” wrote author Madeleine L’Engle. “What makes night within us may leave stars,” added Victor Hugo. In sports, Michael Jordan insisted, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” And the Latin adage Si vis pacem, para bellum reminds us, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
Perhaps now, more than ever before in our lifetimes, we need these hopeful reminders. Beyond living through a historic pandemic, these words apply to many other aspects of life. They apply in politics. They apply in fiction (there’s even a section of the ideal story structure called the “Dark Night of the Soul”). They apply to athletes. And they apply to writers as well.
Because writing a book is a struggle. And writing a book about a dark subject—like the mass shooting incident in my novel Parabellum—only deepens that struggle.
As readers can probably guess, the title Parabellum derives from that aforementioned Latin adage. The phrase was also adopted by gunmaker Georg Luger to name the cartridge for his 1902 pistol: 9 mm Parabellum in Europe; 9 mm Luger in the United States. It’s a title that fits a novel about a major gun crime.
Parabellum follows four main characters dealing with various psychological demons that could drive any one of them to commit the mass shooting. In one way or another, they are all looking for peace, even as they fight their psychological battles.
But the adage also describes my struggle to understand why a person would indiscriminately mow down a crowd of strangers with an assault weapon. Well before I started writing the novel, I knew that question would lead me to some pretty dark places—researching mass murder, the Holocaust and other accounts of evil—not to mention grappling with my troubled characters as I made my way through the story.
So, how do we get through the darkness and find the light? Be patient, say L’Engle and Hugo. Night is never permanent. Keep trying, says Jordan. That’s how you learn what it takes to succeed. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, says the ancient wisdom. Remember the end goal of peace.
In a pandemic, making it through the darkness or the battle means taking care of what you can control, until it’s safe to once again hug family members, share a meal with friends, or travel among strangers. In life, it means moving forward, doing your best, trying and failing and learning from your mistakes. And for writers, it means grappling with the truth—however unpleasant—and putting words on a page every single day, even if it’s only one paragraph or one sentence.
Parabellum is a dark book, written about dark ideas, published at a dark time in the world. But there is light in it as well, and I hope readers will find that light, in fiction and in real life.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Parabellum, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “parabellum,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 20, 2021. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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