Good and Evil

Good and Evil

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When my first novel, Spirit Warriors, was purchased by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books, it was an uplifting New Agey tale based on Hopi prophecies about the end times. Yes, there were those unpleasant end times to contend with, but a female savior did her thing and everyone who lived, lived happily ever after.

The acquiring editor at Pocket Books envisioned this novel as the first in a new line of fiction she wanted to launch under the revolutionary (in the 1980’s) label of “New Age Fiction.” Change was in the air. The Celestine Prophecy had just been acquired by a rival publisher, and forward thinkers thought, well, forwardly.

After we were under contract, there was an infamous meeting of the dreaded “marketing team” who brought up the question, “Okay, but where will we put it on the store bookshelves? There is no established category for New Age Fiction.” Then came the shocking call from my editor who said, “Can’t do the New Age thing after all. You have to turn it into a horror novel.”

I replied that I didn’t want to turn it into a horror novel. She told me that Pocket Books could cancel the publishing contract. [insert author’s sigh here] It was my first contract, my life’s dream come true. So I capitulated. Inside, I smugly thought that perhaps after I became really famous I could write whatever I wanted and the rigidity of established genres be damned!

At a loss, I asked my editor how I was supposed to turn Spirit Warriors into a horror novel. [insert editor’s sigh here] She said something to the effect of, “Add lots of sex, violence, and evil. New Age folks are all spiritual with their peace, love, and positive thinking, but evil does exist, you know. You can’t just pretend it doesn’t. So show it.”

I was all peace, love, and positive thinking. I had been raised by a bohemian hippie chick, lived in communes, chanted OM a lot, and believed the goal of life was “don’t worry, be happy!” Bad things were only the result of “wrong thinking.” What the hell was evil anyway?

So, I added a lot of sex, violence, and evil stuff to the novel. The Celestine Prophecy spent three years on the New York Times Bestseller List, was made into a movie, its author became a bazillionaire, and my novel was panned by critics who said it contained too much gratuitous sex and violence. New Agey people hated the classic horror cover and really hated the evil in the book. They wanted peace, love, and all that positive thinking stuff. Horror fans were put off by the New Age elements of the story. It was an epic fail.

Thankfully, Spirit Warriors went out of print rather quickly and I vowed that someday I would release a “director’s cut.” It is still on my bucket list.

Looking back, my editor was right about two things: there was a market for what I prefer to call “metaphysical fiction,” and evil really does exist.

It took most of my adult life to figure out that evil was real. I New Aged it away with, “it’s all just wrong thinking.” I mean, come on world, haven’t you read A Course in Miracles yet? As The Course teaches, “Innocence is wisdom because it is unaware of evil, and evil does not exist. So, evil is only real if you believe in it.”

Seriously?

The ancients had it right. The Winchester brothers from TV’s Supernatural have it right. This world, this plane of existence is a battleground between good and evil and we are the warriors, the grunts in the field of battle. The officers staging the fight are angels on one side and demons on the other, and we humans must choose sides. If we don’t, sides are often chosen for us. Disagree with me if you wish. Label the good and evil entities in terms favored by your own spiritual/religious/philosophical/occult traditions if you prefer. But I know from first hand experience the truth of which I speak. Ignoring the heavy traffic on life’s highway is certain to make one end up as road kill.

My first editor would be proud of me now. My novels overflow with good versus evil, fighting the good fight, Light Warriors, angels, and yes, demons. Characters must choose a side and stick to their metaphysical guns. Life, death, sacrifices, and redemption comprise the lifeblood of my fiction.

Even in my comic novella, Show Dog Sings The Blues—nominated as best humor book of 2011—a champion show dog mistaken for a working cowdog experiences a spiritual epiphany and, after great internal struggle, becomes willing to lay down her life to save a baby lamb. She does her duty, faces down the killer coyotes, and understands the possibility she might die by doing the right thing. Here is an excerpt. Talisman the show dog discovers a baby lamb that has strayed from the flock, and there are two coyotes stalking the lamb. Val is her dead person, who often appears to her as a spirit. The story is told from the dog’s viewpoint. In this scene, Talisman has made the decision to stay with the lamb and protect her, but then things go from bad to worse:

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*         *         *

Leaping back to Baby Lamb, I resumed my sentry position.

I licked the blood off my lips and swallowed my victory. My heart pounded, my body trembled, and I braced myself for the next round. How long could I keep this up?

Val had been fond of telling me that Australian Shepherds didn’t have a give-up-gene. I reminded myself that I had once been the best damn Aussie in the world.

Then I heard the sound that made my blood run cold. The coyote couple did a call out for their pack—their howls summoning the reinforcements that would help them kill Baby Lamb and me. I was overcome by a desire to run away.

Val, I need you.

He returned. “I’m here.”

Tell me what to do. If I leave now, I’ll be okay. If I don’t, we’ll both die.

“Death isn’t the worst thing. Could you live knowing you abandoned her to die alone?”

I thought about it. Does it hurt to die?

“Nature helps. She’s more merciful than she seems.”

Will you stay with me when the time comes?

“I’ll never leave you. I love you.”

I love you too, Val. Forever and ever. You’re my heart person.

I heard the yips, barks, and yowls that were the pack’s answering call. It was on its way.

Val had spent his life on a spiritual journey, and he took me along for the ride. He spent countless hours God-bathing, which was how he described contemplation. I, on the other hand, sun-bathed—it required much less effort. Twice a day at certain times, Val went to his private chapel, chanted his sacred word, and disappeared into some inner space that provided him comfort. I randomly relaxed in the sun. On cloudy days, I still derived comfort from my ritual because I knew the sun was always there whether I could see it or not.

Val developed his spiritual system by studying the great mystics of all ages and distilling their wisdom. I developed mine by smelling things. My nose taught me that everything was unique. No two people, two animals, two plants, or even rocks smelled the same. Did all that uniqueness come from something or nothing? The answer was obvious to me.

I leaned down and smelled Baby Lamb, then I closed my eyes and felt the sun. That was my prayer. That was my hope.

*         *         *

(For those animal-lovers out there, the dog, lamb, and coyotes all survive the encounter.) This particular scene is my own personal favorite of all my writings. It sums up my belief system perfectly. We’re here to help one another, no matter what the cost. If we are strong, we must protect the weak. We must live for others and we must be willing to die for others. As Val says in another book where he appears, “Courage is a choice.” And it is a choice we must make over and over and over again.

I write fiction about uncommon heroes.

I write paranormal thrillers, paranormal romance, young adult urban fantasy, and romantic comedy. The comedy might seem out of sync with rest of my genres, but I always tie in the concept of uncommon heroism. And truth be told, in my humor novels I sometimes poke fun at who I was before my own transformation: a New Age hippie who kept her head buried in warm and fuzzy sand. I even have a quirky character who has just graduated with her PMA—Positive Mental Attitude—certification from the School of the Secret Power of Intention and Visualization in the Now. At one point she suggests, “Why don’t we just create a theme song to dispel all this negativity?” Don’t hate me, those of you who utilize these very popular mental techniques. My satirical look at various philosophies doesn’t denigrate them, but I do point out their limitations.

In my Legend of Glory young adult urban fantasy trilogy, an ordinary teenager finds herself in the middle of a planetary war between the forces of good and evil, and decides to become a Light Warrior.

In my paranormal thriller Threshold, a young boy faces the ultimate self-sacrifice as he tries to close the doors to Hell.

In Of the Blood of Witches, a group of witches is willing to sacrifice themselves to prevent Hitler’s invasion of Britain.

In Witch Hunt, an innocent woman takes a dangerous stand for what is right in the midst of a modern witch hunt.

Even in my romantic comedy, Red Hot Liberty, a woman risks everything that matters to her, including her child, to stand up against injustice.

And in my Christmas classic, With Brave Wings She Flies, while a demon and an Archangel wager for a young mother’s soul, she chooses to go to Hell in order to save her daughter.

What would you risk for those you love? Do you only love your immediate family? Do you understand that the human race is one big family? Do you believe we’re all in this together, or have you taken refuge on an island, totally focused on protecting yourself from the polluted water surrounding it? Have you ever considered trying to clean up that pollution? Oh, but what if you are harmed in the process? Do you want to escape into Nirvana, or perhaps perch on a heavenly cloud munching bon-bons for eternity? What price is involved in the hero’s journey?

In one of my forthcoming novels, a Buddhist character is offered a way out of her own personal Hell so she may become enlightened and move forward into the clear white light. After much deliberation, she quotes the Dalai Lama: “You should realize that whether you achieve Buddhahood or not, your purpose is to help other sentient beings. Whether you find yourself in Heaven or Hell, your purpose is to help other sentient beings. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.”

Exactly.

Show Dog Sings The Blues excerpt © 2011 Devin O’Branagan – All Rights Reserved

Good and Evil © 2014 Devin O’Branagan – All Rights Reserved

To read the Paranormal Galaxy Magazine version of this article click on the title Good and Evil

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