I have never been a person who craves the limelight and suspect my fifteen minutes of fame came and went long ago. I have difficulty understanding Facebook and similar personal media sites, I really have no interest in what anyone had for breakfast or that their kids went to school again today. The important stuff, sure but in the morass of trivia it’s easily overlooked.
Considering what would be of even the slightest interest about me to a potential reader I reasoned that perhaps the most legitimate subjects would be what I write, what I have previously written and why.
I go back in time to my younger brother, who unwittingly introduced me to Tolkien. He was entranced by the story and on a multitude of occasions queried if I had read the tale, and if not, why.
So I read it, and as with its ilk was mightily disappointed. I got the message, I understood the plot, where it came from and was going. As is usual I loved the text, but hated the constant magical get-out, for real magic does not exist. It’s merely trickery to fool the unprepared and un-enquiring mind.
Before I was 14 years old I had read Purnells’ history of the First World War cover to cover, all eight volumes of it. It is very sober reading. On the battlefield no god or magic will save you from a fast approaching shell or bullet. No one despite what they believed at the time won a battle through divine intervention. Luck, confusion, weather, feint or deceit are most certainly influencing factors. Training, expertise, morale, technological superiority and tactical skill can turn the tide of conflict for an armed force, be they a single individual or group and these are not god given or magic. They are the efforts of mortal men and we know, or at least those who are prepared to listen and learn from history and survivors of real combat will understand, how fearsome, lethal and unselective combat is.
As well as Purnell and history in general, with a definite slant toward military history I read assiduously, with non-historic themes predominantly as science fiction and latterly what has become known as science fantasy. I read Isaac Asimov, (and still am inspired by his imagination) Arthur C Clarke and dozens more. Then at my brothers’ behest I read Tolkien. And I read more of it, Robin Hobb among others. I was intrigued enough to keep reading, but not impressed until I read Paul Kearney, (who? I hear you ask. Look him up) and I’ve been looking for a sequel ever since. The writer I missed in this period was David Gemmell, and oh what a miss that was. I found David at a later stage, via the Trojan trilogy and after Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden brought real history to life. To my mind both of these fantastic writers have to some extent gone off the boil and these days a Gerald Seymour novel is more likely to captivate me.
I started to write fiction as a counter to Tolkien, I wanted a story Tolkienic in scope but without religion, magic or even the distraction of sex. Long before embarking on “There and back” (also the alternative title for Lord of the Rings) I had written some poems and story themes, or more exactly sketches, but never anything of length. So, some ten years in the writing I sent “There and back” sections to publishers, and got them straight back. Strange, for it’s every bit as compelling a quest tale as Tolkien. Oh, I forgot. There is no magic or religion. Well no matter, for in its writing even though fiction a lot of fabrication is needed for the sake of continuity. Like Tolkien, I drew maps (although more conventional in layout as I am a closet cartographer), fabricated calendars and histories and pseudo languages. That ‘research’ led me to another associated story around the conflict that draws in the central character, much more gritty and in line with how Kearney would have written it. “A Campaign of Violence” is perhaps not the best title, but it sums the story up. The title page carries an adaptation of a quotation by Guy Chapman. Author of ‘A passionate prodigality’ (Who? I hear you ask again. Look him up too) for to me it speaks volumes about conflict, ancient and modern. That compulsion, no matter what the cost to others once a battle (skirmish, fight, whatever the relevant term is for that combat) is survived, that makes people go back both physically to the fight and mentally for the rest of their lives when it is done. I saw this in my parents, who like their peers and despite over half a century of peace and relative prosperity with fulfilling lives continually looked back to the years of the Second World War as the best they had lived through.
There grows a compelling fascination, and in that fascination lies her power.
Once you have lain in her arms you can admit no other mistress.
You may loath, you may abominate, but you cannot deny her.
Even those who hate her most are prisoners to her spell.
They rise from her embrace pillaged, soiled, it may be ashamed.
But they are still hers.**
She is war.
** an adaptation of a quotation by Guy Chapman
The original reads;
“There grows a compelling fascination, I do not think I exaggerate for in that fascination lays wars’ power. Once you have lain in her arms you can admit no other mistress, you may loath, you may execrate but you cannot deny her. No wine gives fiercer intoxication, no drug more vivid exaltation. Every writer of imagination has confessed as much, even those who hate her most are prisoners to her spell. They rise from her embrace pillaged, soiled even ashamed but they are still hers.”
So these stories took time, progressing from hand written, through a typewriter, (yes, a real one) an electronic typewriter (now you know how long ago this was happening!) and eventually to a PC, desktop version first of course and then laptop, I tried the I-pad when we lived in California and didn’t get on with it as a writing tool. My current MacBook Air is perfect, being small enough, yet not too small and powerful enough to do all I need it to.
Thank goodness for the Internet I say. The last four books would have been impossible to write authoritatively without it.
So a little of my written work ‘not in the public domain’. I have worked in lighter than air (that’s airships and their derivatives) for around thirty years now over a multitude of types, to most of which I have been required to write manuals, directives and procedures for all the ground support activities and equipment associated with each individual air vehicle type, and then as needed re-format it for the customer. Among the plethora of other written documents I have produced are marketing flyers, integration and expectation handbooks, working proposals, test and training programs, contracts and conclusions and reports. All of which are quite formal, a style that I hope only creeps into my private writing in terms of grammatical detail.
And now to (relatively) recent works: My good lady wife made a statement over dinner one evening that she couldn’t read my stories as they had nothing to do with real life. I disagreed naturally, but understood her viewpoint. The stories I had written were reflections on the human condition without pointing fingers. She needed real people in the now. She went so far as to challenge me that I couldn’t write a story she could read. Here comes ‘An Afghan Affair’!
Why Afghanistan? Why not? It was (and to a great extent still is) a country in turmoil. A place where the world is turned upside down and people and events can turn out contrary to our expectations and so it makes a fine place for an unusual romance.
It came out well enough that my better half encouraged me to publish. I had looked at self-publishing some considerable years earlier and rejected it as unworkable. Far too expensive and a pain in the butt to have a garage full of books that potentially no one would want. Well, near where we lived at the time was a small on-demand self-publishing business and on enquiry I figured that perhaps it was viable at last to bring a work into the public domain.
And now there is “An Afghan Affair.” I won’t say I made no mistakes for there are many, both in the actual text and in the process. Having moved away from Los Gatos, I thought the lack of personal contact with a small house would be problematical and so looked wider. I supposed that most of the ‘on demand’ publishers were of a likeness and chose in the end to try Friesen Press. (Apparently JK Rowling used them at one time, so they couldn’t be all bad) I knew as the first book it was really just dipping my toe in the water and so opted for the ‘niche market’ package believing erroneously that I would at least get the work proof read. I was wrong!
Looking at self published book lists, I can understand why. There are thousands of them; hundreds turning up every day and most are at best dire. Does anyone actually want to read most of this drivel and otherwise how on earth would an on demand publisher ever get to discern which are dire and which not? In reality, once they have your money, do they care? Sure they like books to sell, but throw enough dung at a wall and some of it is bound to stick. Enough, the future is firmly in my hands.