Published At Long Last

Hello All,

It has been a long time since I posted. It has been about a week and a half since my novel, A Beckoning War, has been published and has gone on sale. In about three weeks, I will receive a review from Kirkus Indie Reviews, which may or may not be favourable. I am confident that it will be. If it is a good review, I will put an excerpt in or on the book. If it is unfavourable, um, who said anything about a Kirkus Indie review anyway?

On the whole, I am very, very happy that the book is done. It takes A HELL OF A LOT OF WORK to ready a manuscript for publication. I would love for one day to be allied with a publishing house,  to share the labours with others, and I hope that this self-published book will end up in the right hands to make that an eventuality. But whatever the case, it’s out of my system and foisted upon the world at large. I am currently re-editing a novella I wrote a few years back to enter it into a contest. It is refreshing to be able to return to writing other things now that this project is done with. I I leave you with my radio interview with CBC Sudbury from last Friday, January 24th, with Markus Schwabe, in which I discuss the inspirations and writing of the book, which along with a Sudbury Star profile in December, is my first traditional media exposure.

I bid thee adieu for now, and urge you to read some good books.



A Beckoning War: Outtakes and Goof Reels

Greetings to all,

It’s been an awfully long while since I’ve posted on this website. I have not yet established any consistent focus or rhythm regarding content, but we’ll see what the future brings in that regard.  In the last number of months I have been busy editing and re-editing A Beckoning War, my long overdue (and truth be told, long-finished at least in terms of raw writing) novel, in addition to working, studying French and living life in my new home of Montreal.

Rest assured, the novel will be released…..but I am sacrificing expediency in the name of quality.  There has been lots of cutting lately–my lovely editor Lia is quite unsentimental when it comes to superfluousness, and I am quite unsparing when it comes to providing it.  I have become more dispassionate lately as well.  Why, just today I slashed about two pages out of a single chapter.

Overall, I think the flow and pacing of the novel has improved greatly in this recent spate of cutting and narrative reorganization–speaking of narrative reorganization, I learned a new trick.  Writers, take note.  When dealing with continuity and organization issues, I tend to just go backwards and forwards in the story making adjustments, relying mostly on memory and ad hoc jotted notes, often on discarded work papers, receipts, eviction notices, university degrees, jury summons and the like.  That’s right, my system is memory, which is no system at all.  Just ask anyone who has ever seen my work area.

So, in order to help me find a way through the manuscript quickly, Lia suggested for me to very briefly summarize each chapter into a grid and cut the squares out.  I could then  move them around at will if chapters needed to moved, or see which ones could be combined, and the effect that would have, and so on….The result has been brilliant.  I’ve been able to make changes quickly and efficiently lately (what a string of adverbs.)

I have included a link here on the story sharing site Wattpad to a chapter that I have cut from the story outright.  In this scene, Jim, the main character, is musing on his decision to join the army and go to war and compares himself to his younger brother Mark who has already run off and joined the air force.  This triggers a flashback of he and Mark as young boys with BB guns.   I am including it here because I think there may be the seeds of a short story based on the sequence of the two boys in the forest.  What do you think?

Why A War Novel?

As some of you who read this blog may know, with the possible exception of the myriad spammers who plague my site (though who likely keep my stats up—good work, guys!…?)  I am self-publishing my first novel, a war novel, an excerpt of which is available on this site under the heading War Novel (Just look up…)

But, a question begs to be asked.  War is not the most pleasant of subjects, as oft I’ve been told.  So…..

Why a war novel?  This is a good question.  Another question that begs to be asked:  Why a novel about the Second World War?  Isn’t this war in its grainy black and white “These Are Our Boys!” newsreels trumpeting from auld long ago (66—72 years ago, to be precise) terribly out of fashion, you ask?  Wasn’t the last great revival of World War Two:  Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You back in the late Nineties, with the release of movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, riding, or perhaps triggering, a wave of praise of The Greatest Generation?  (Another question:  Were members of that generation always old?  I sometimes picture a bunch of bentbacked grandfathers piloting tanks and bombers and leaping out landing craft into the fray, canes clenched firmly in hand.  Maybe that’s just me.)

The answer is, unfortunately, yes.  I guess I missed the landing craft on that craze, too young and immature was I to complete a war novel in time to cash in on Normandy Nostalgia.  Though, admittedly, I had coincidentally started an early draft then.

Well, the answer is that I wrote this novel because I felt I had to.  Something about that time and place seemed compelling as the setting for a story.  It seemed like some sort of weird calling, like an Enigma-coded call to literary arms.  Okay, that’s stretching it, and the Enigma reference makes me sound like I was working for the Nazis.  I may have been, nominally, but only to betray them to the Allies.  Honest.  (This would never have spared me from the noose at Nuremberg….I digress.)

I think historical fiction is a good medium through which to explore the past.  That, and suffering and misery (once removed) make for great subjects in art and entertainment.

To write this novel, I used what knowledge I had already absorbed from a childhood of reading Time Life war books, atlases, history textbooks and coffee table books about the Second World War.  I added a dollop of heavy research at the National Library and Archives of Canada during a stint of Dickensian penury in Ottawa about 7 years ago, and read through hundreds of wartime letters, leafed through personal scrapbooks donated by veterans and their families.  I was so broke I actually transcribed letters by hand and drew things like decals and insignia and the like as a means of recording them.

A couple years later, in financially kinder times, I actually went to Italy and walked through the streets of San Giovanni, Besanigo and Coriano, where much of the action takes place (and where there is a large cemetery of Commonwealth war dead.)  After seeing this place, it was smooth sailing.  I was able to finish writing the novel in mere months instead of chipping and chiselling away at it with uncertainty for years (though I am proud to say I had mostly gotten it right.  However, seeing the place allowed me to just charge ahead and not worry.)

If you made it to the end of this blog post, feel free to check out the link for my campaign to build support for the publication of said novel, here on the Indiegogo crowdsourcing site.   Thank you very much to those who have contributed, and feel free to pass it on.  Cheers!