Just Sit Back and Read :)

For fun this week, I thought I’d let you all have a look at the first part of my short story published in the anthology Out Of The Storm.

Fire in a Storm

USSR, 1934

The stained glass shattered as the brick met the image of Christ, his hand raised to calm a storm. Shards sprayed the air, and Pavel Kozlov stepped back, wiping the mud from his palm. Lightning illuminated the century-old church, followed almost instantly by thunder. Pistol gripped, he mounted the steps. The large double doors at first refused him and he fired several rounds into the lock, leaving only twisted metal and splinters. He pushed his way in, his commander in his wake. Two other officers were stationed near the door at the rear to make sure no one slipped out.

Pavel’s boots echoed as he walked to the center of the Nave. The vast space was illuminated only by the flickering of several candles on the altar. He removed his cap and mopped the water from his face. Why did they have to do this tonight? Not that there was any option but to follow any order given him. His father’s connections had placed him among the NKVD, the Soviet Union’s secret police, and he had yet to prove himself.

“Perhaps they’ve already left.” His voice resonated off the vaulted ceiling.

“There’s one way to be sure.” Kupiev, his commanding officer, strode to the front of the chapel and took a candle. Then leaned it into a gathering of velvet drapery. The flame took to it, racing up the fabric.

What are you doing? Pavel clenched his hands. They were doing what was necessary. He had to learn to distance himself from sentiment. This wasn’t simply an architectural masterpiece, it was a symbol of organized religion and not worthy of remorse. Still, he hated fire.

Somewhere in the church, a door creaked. Father Anitoly Veselov appeared in the shadows, his priestly robes draped across his shoulders. “We have done nothing.”

“You’ve done enough,” Kupiev said. “We’re here to arrest you and your son.”

“But to destroy the church?” His face reflected the glow of the flames as they lapped at the pillars. Perspiration shone on his brow.

Kupiev’s retort was silenced by the crashing of an object through glass. There were more footsteps in the hall. Pavel darted past the priest, who leapt at him to cut him off.

“No!” Veselov’s cry shortened to a grunt as a shot rang through the church. He crumpled to the floor.

Pavel glanced back to Kupiev who was returning his gun to its place. “We have our orders,” he said. “Go.”

Yes, they had their orders, but they hadn’t included killing an old priest. Pavel swallowed back the distaste in his mouth as he continued on his course, reaching the hall just as a shadowed figure threw itself through a broken window. He choked on smoke. It seemed their men had torched the back door, and the flames were spreading quickly. Several more shots cut the night, followed by the deep rumble of thunder.

Pavel vaulted through the gap in the window, one hand pushing off of the heavy woolen coat that had been placed over the shards of glass. He met the ground as one of the other officers raced past. The man jerked, bringing his weapon to bear on Pavel.

“Avoid shooting just anyone, please,” Pavel grumbled, pushing him aside. “Where did the other priest go? That was him, wasn’t it?”

“I think so,” the officer nodded. “He disappeared behind the church.”

Pavel sprinted to the back of the building. Shivering as moisture ran down his neck, he pulled his coat’s black leather collar tight. The hiss of light rain meeting fire did little to hinder the growing blaze. He scanned the narrow canal and the aspen grove beyond. Seeing nothing, he crouched to examine the bank. The ground had been disturbed, a hint of grass ripped — probably by a shoe sliding downward. Straightening, he followed the canal to a rotted footbridge, fallen in halves to the bottom. He jumped in, sending up a spray of mud and water as his boots sank into the shallow stream. Pistol ready, he pulled up one side of the waterlogged structure. There was a feminine gasp.

“Anything?” An officer called from the edge of the grove.

I’m afraid that is all the publisher will let me share here, but feel free to visit amazon for the full book. There are some other great stories included. My favorites are The Grumpy Chronicles (an entertaining spin off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Dorthy’s Carol (just a sweet story), and Husband Hunting (western Romance).

Also, feel free to visit my pinterest board for some of visuals 🙂 and mood music!

Out of the Storm — Now Available!

Finally, that day I know we’ve all been waiting for! Alright. Maybe I’ve been closer to the edge of my seat than the rest of you, but to add to your excitement I am giving away a hard copy to someone. Leave a comment here and/or share on Facebook and it could be yours! I’ll even autograph it before I put it in the mail–I know, now you’re feeling the rush of adrenaline.

 

Fire in a Storm by Angela K Couch

USSR 1934

“He was secret police and he knew his purpose. Religion was the enemy and God, the deception. Then a glimpse of gold and silver, and the woman who wore it, threatened everything he trusted.”

Instead of rambling on anymore, I’ll let you go to Amazon and read it for yourself. It’s really easy to find the story you want as it’s conveniently located at the end of the book. Nothing like ending an anthology with a “bang” … but now I’m giving away too much information. 😉

Also, for fun, you can check out my Pinterest board for “Fire in a Storm”, to get a feel for time, place and characters. There is even some music to set you in the mood.

“God, the Deception.”

I hope you all had wonderful holidays! A new year begins and our countdown continues. One month to the release of “Out of the Storm” and only two more copies to give away. Congrats to Ruth B. for winning last month’s! Leave a comment here or on Facebook and it could be yours, too!

Coming Feb 3, 2015

Coming Feb 3rd!

To mark this moment we are going to take another glance at my short story, Fire in a Storm.

“He was secret police and he knew his purpose. Religion was the enemy and God, the deception. Then a glimpse of gold and silver, and the woman who wore it, threatened everything he trusted.”

As we stated in November’s blog, the main character in Fire in a storm is a member of the NKVD or “Stalin’s secret police.” As such, he has had Marxist-Leninist atheism drilled into his brain and has accepted those philosophies. Namely:

Karl_Marx

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” (Marx, K. 1976)

I must admit to hearing that often enough during the months I spent in Russia a few years ago. That last line was often ready and waiting on many an atheist’s tongue. How much more so, I imagine, in the midst of the communist regime and the heart of the persecution against religion.

Marx wrote further: “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the value of woe, the halo of which is religion. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower.”

Make sense?

Ok, I admit I had to read it several times, but I wanted to understand what made my character tic. It seems many Soviet leaders of the early 1900s interpreted this as: God is an illusion, therefore religion is a dome of illusion, deceiving people into false happiness and hope. How can you experience real happiness, and real life, when you are caught up in the false?

I guess I’m in real trouble because I most certainly believe in God as did many good people in the Soviet Union when this philosophy corrupted laws and led to the persecution we discussed last month. Strange how an idea about saving people from their “happy” illusions can lead to that people’s destruction… all because they decided they wanted to hang on to the beliefs that have made them happy. Leave it to a man like Lenin to militarize a philosophy.

Boris Kustodiev’s 1920 painting “Bolshevik,” depicting a revolutionary with the red flag, glaring at an Orthodox Christian church.

 

“Religion was the Enemy”

It’s December 3rd and our countdown to the release of “Out Of The Storm” continues! First though, I would like to announce the winner of last month’s giveaway. Thank you, Sarah M., for your comment on Facebook! We still have one more e-book and a hard copy of “Out of The Storm” to give away, so please leave a comment here or on Facebook!

Coming Feb 3, 2015

Coming Feb 3, 2015

 

“He was secret police and he knew his purpose. Religion was the enemy and God, the deception. Then a glimpse of gold and silver, and the woman who wore it, threatened everything he trusted.”

For anyone who missed my blog last month, Fire in a Storm‘s main character is a member of Stalin’s “secret police” or the NKVD. One of their main occupations during the 1930s was the persecution, and attempted dismantling, of religion.

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Demolition of Annunciation Church in Leningrad, 1929

Often in a very literal sense. In just over ten years the number of Russian Orthodox churches dropped from 29,584 to less than 500. Fire. Dynamite. And sometimes just sledgehammers.

churchbells

Wikipedia gives a good summary of the challenges for those clinging to their religion, and the general climate in which my story is set:

“In the late 1930s being associated with the Church was dangerous. Even a brief visit to a church could mean loss of employment and irreparable career damage, expulsion from educational establishments and even to arrest. People who wore pectoral crosses underneath their clothing could be subject to persecution. People could be arrested for such things as having an icon in their home [and] inviting a priest to perform a religious rite or service at home since the local churches were closed. Priests caught performing such rites were often imprisoned and disappeared forever. Massive numbers of believers were effectively imprisoned or executed for nothing except overtly witnessing their faith, especially if they were charismatic or of great stature and spiritual authority, because they were therefore undermining the antireligious propaganda.”

539px-Militant_atheist_Bolsheviks_firing_upon_a_Christian_Church_Procession_in_Astrakhan

 As stated by Stalin, “…to bring to completion the liquidation of the reactionary clergy in our country,” he initiated an “atheist five year plan.” 1932–1937 the hope was to “completely eliminate all religious expression in the USSR, and drive the concept of God from the Soviet Union.

Again allow me to flip back to Wikipedia to give you a glimpse at what this looked like:

Exact figures of victims is difficult to calculate due to the nature of the campaign and may never be known with certainty. During the purges of 1937 and 1938, church documents record that 168,300 Russian Orthodox clergy were arrested. Of these, over 100,000 were shot. Lower estimates claim that at least 25,000–30,000 clergy were killed in the 1930s and 1940s. When including both religious (i.e., monks and nuns) and clergy, historian Nathaniel Davis estimates that 80,000 were killed by the end of the 1930s. Alexander Yakovlev, the head of the Commission for Rehabilitating Victims of Political Repression (in the modern Russian government) has stated that the number of monks, nuns and priests killed in the purges is over 200,000. About 600 bishops of both the Orthodox and the Renovationists were killed. The number of laity killed likely greatly exceeds the number of clergy.”

Of course these don’t include all those who spend years, if not their whole lives in gulags, or concentration camps.

Not a safe time or place to live if you are true to your faith in Christ … which another one of Fire in the Storm’s main characters is. I can’t wait to share this story with you in two short months! Leave a comment here or Facebook for the chance at a free copy of this, and eleven other faith inspiring stories!

“He was secret police and he knew his duty.”

Today is November 3, which means exactly 3 months to the release of my short story, Fire in a Storm. The story is set in 1930’s Soviet Union, so time for a history lesson!

Don’t worry, we’ll keep this painless 😉

Mentally, at least. Physical pain was sometimes a necessary tool utilized by Stalin’s secret police, or NKVD — People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (yay for making the “people” feel a part of this!) The secret police feature very prominently in this story.

117px-Emblema_NKVD.svg

NKVD (Secret Police) emblem

So who were they and what did they do?

Wikipedia puts it well: “The main function of the NKVD was to protect the state security of the Soviet Union. This function was successfully accomplished through massive political repression, including authorized political murders, kidnappings and assassinations, inclusively in its international “secret” operations.”

In short they were–under Stalin’s authorization–responsible for hundreds of thousands of assassinations, executions and murders at home and abroad. And that’s not even touching on how many others were tortured or left to waste away in prisons and gulags (forced labor camps).

 

This is the uniform worn by the NKVD before WWII:

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But of course you’re never fully dressed without a…

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Aren’t you glad I chose from among their numbers, the main character for Fire in a Storm?

Join me on Dec 3 for a look at the NKVD’s vendetta against religion in the 1930s.

And leave a comment here, or join me on Facebook for a chance to win a free copy of Fire in a Storm and eleven other inspirational short stories in the anthology:

Coming Feb 3, 2015

Coming Feb 3, 2015